Illinois Amends Abuse Reporting Act

In the wake of the conviction of Jerry Sandusky for sexual abusing minors, Illinois has amended The Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, 325 ILCS 5/4. The amendment which became effective June 27, 2012, adds: personnel of institutions of higher education and director or staff of athletic program, to the extensive list of people who are mandatory reporters of knowledge of abuse or neglect of a child.

The law-325 ILCS 5/4-has for years covered physicians, residents, nurses, dentists, chiropractors, EMTs, crisis line personnel, nursery school personnel, teachers, educational personnel (which did not until recently include “institutions of higher education”), members of school board, social workers, law enforcement officers, psychologists, probation officers, foster parents, truant officers, and personnel at various state agencies. They all have a duty when “having reasonable cause to believe a child known to them in their professional or official capacity may be an abused child or neglected child” to “immediately report or cause a report to be made to the Department” (Dept. of Children and Family Services)325 ILCS 5/4. Failure to report may well be the evidence to hold the institution of higher education or athletic program financially accountable when they fail to insure their personnel are aware of and do report suspected abuse of children.

The penalties for failing to report or filing a false report range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 3 felony. The thrust of the recent amendment of the Act and in including “personnel of institutions of higher education” and “director or staff of..athletic program” is to address precisely the situation that occurred at Penn State University where numerous members of the athletic department and many administrators including the president of the university were aware of reports of childhood sexual abuse and did nothing about it. Neither the Sandusky saga nor Penn State legal problems will go away soon. It is difficult for many of us to imagine grown men becoming aware of a pattern of sexual abuse of young boys by a university coach, and not stopping it immediately and clearly reporting the criminal behavior. At Penn State the sanctity of their football program and the money it generates trumped the natural tendency of grown men to protect a young boy from a sexual predator like Sandusky. Hopefully this amendment may save a child in Illinois from undergoing what Sandusky’s victims endured!