Senate passes Goodwin bill to make sexual abuse reporting law more effective
STATE HOUSE – Making sure kids are protected from sexual abuse is important, says Sen. Maryellen Goodwin, and legislation to make a law she sponsored to require school officials to report sexual abuse more effective has passed the Rhode Island Senate with a unanimous vote.
Senator Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) sponsored the law passed in 2016 requiring school employees to report suspected sexual abuse cases to the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) in response to allegations of abuse over the course of decades at St. George’s School in Middletown. The alleged abuse was not reported to authorities, and there was no law requiring the school to do so because the mandatory reporting law at the time applied only to abuse allegations against parents, guardians or caregivers in a DCYF-licensed program – not teachers or school officials.
The bill (2018-S 2353) she is sponsoring this year would clarify the circumstances in which a person should raise a flag about possible abuse, and would also designate school principals and headmasters – or another leader designated by the school – as the person who should make the report to DCYF. The bill also calls upon the Department of Education to issue policies and procedures for handling the reports, which could include training for school officials so they are well-equipped to determine when and how to report.
The changes are meant to ensure that no incident goes unreported because a school official didn’t understand what needs to be reported, and to prevent over-reporting, including multiple reports of the same incident or incidents that do not constitute abuse.
“Our goal here, above all else, is to create a system that protects kids and gives them help when they need it. There needs to be a clear understanding of when schools should contact DCYF about suspected abuse. Making the reporting law more specific will help ensure that incidents cannot be swept under the rug, while also protecting DCYF from having to waste precious resources and time investigating matters that aren’t abuse, or weeding through multiple reports about the same incident, so they can instead focus on helping children who need their services,” said Senator Goodwin.
For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903