N.D., Minn. laws: Child sex abuse must be reportedThe child sex abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University has focused national attention on the legal and moral obligations of officials to report evidence of suspected abuse.
By: By Pamela Knudson, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
The child sex abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University has focused national attention on the legal and moral obligations of officials to report evidence of suspected abuse.
In North Dakota, “state law requires mandatory reporting for personnel who work with children,” said Grand Forks School District Superintendent Larry Nybladh. “Persons witnessing abuse have a legal obligation and liability to report suspected abuse.”
In Minnesota, all youth coaches are legally required to report incidents of child abuse and neglect, according to an attorney with the state court system.
Research suggests that even mandated reporters hesitate to report, especially when friends or colleagues are accused of abusing children, according to the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona (Minn.) State University.
The center points to one study showing that fewer than 50 percent of mandated reporters followed through with the legal reporting obligations.
At Penn State, several officials have been fired for failing to report sexual abuse by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The highest profile firing was of longtime coach Joe Paterno.
The North Dakota Century Code requires certain people who work in education, health care, social work, foster parenting, law enforcement and the juvenile court system, or members of the clergy to report in a timely manner to the State Department of Human Services.
They must report they are aware of or suspect sexual abuse of children as part of their job.
However, the law does not require clergy to report “if the knowledge or suspicion is derived from information received in the capacity of spiritual adviser.”
Oral reports must be followed by written reports within 48 hours, if requested by the Department of Human Services, the Century Code said.
Anyone who is required to report or supply information, and fails to do so, may face class B misdemeanor charges.
All coaches in Minnesota are considered “mandated reporters,” regardless of whether they’re paid or affiliated with schools or with youth sports organizations or clubs, according to Ann Ahlstrom, a manager with the state’s Children’s Justice Initiative.
Officials agree coaches affiliated with schools count as mandated reporters under state law. But there have been conflicting views of whether that holds for volunteer and paid coaches in Minnesota sports clubs and recreational organizations, or whether they count as “voluntary reporters.”
Both mandated and voluntary reporters are protected against retribution for notifying authorities of abuse. But mandated reporters could be charged with misdemeanors if they withhold information about adults abusing children in their care.
Pamela Knudson is reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.