Task Force recommends widespread changes to Pa. child protection laws in wake of Penn State scandal

By Jon Campisi | Nov 28, 2012

A panel created by the state legislature following the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse

scandal released a report Tuesday that calls for sweeping changes to laws governing child protection in the commonwealth.

The 11-member Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, which is chaired by Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, has essentially recommended an entire rewrite of the state’s Child Protective Services Law, including redefining and clarifying what constitutes child abuse, and expanding the list of those who are required to report child abuse to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine.

The report’s findings were cultivated during 11 public meetings that the taskforce held throughout 2012.

The taskforce itself was created by the passage of Senate Resolution 250 in December 2011, one month after the arrest of Sandusky, who formerly worked as an assistant football coach for Penn State University.

Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of child sex-abuse back in June. In October, he was sentenced to between 30 and 60 years in state prison.

The taskforce announced its recommendations during a news conference in Harrisburg, according to the website of the Pennsylvania State Republicans.

During the press event, Heckler, the top prosecutor in Bucks County, which neighbors Philadelphia, was quoted as saying that the panel urges lawmakers to upgrade some crimes relating to children and create new offenses.

“We propose a transformation in the way information concerning child abuse is handled and maintained, the way in which crimes against children are investigated in parts of the state, and the way in which those with a responsibility for the well being of children are trained,” Heckler said.

Heckler said the 11-member body heard testimony from more than 60 people with “hands-on experience in every aspect of protecting children and investigating and prosecuting child abuse.”

The district attorney said the panel’s proposed changes to the law would need to be introduced in numerous bills for the state legislature’s consideration, and that many issues would require additional public hearings.

“The Task Force took a comprehensive look at Pennsylvania’s current laws governing child protection,” Heckler said. “Strengthening these laws must be done as soon as possible, but we should recognize that it cannot be done overnight.”

The Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal rocked the Penn State community and garnered international media attention.

It also led to the firing of longtime head football coach Joe Paterno, (who died soon after his termination), as well as the firing of former university president Graham Spanier.

Spanier and two former Penn State administrators are facing criminal charges relating to the scandal.

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