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Penn State scandal spurs California legislation

As former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky’s preliminary hearing on sex abuse charges begins this week, California lawmakers are rushing to introduce legislation aimed at preventing similar scandals here.

Critics have said Penn State officials –- including head football coach Joe Paterno -– did too little to respond to allegations that Sandusky molested boys for years on the college campus, as well as other locations. Sandusky’s arrest last month on suspicion of child sex abuse ended the careers of Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier.

On Monday, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento) is set to announce a bill that would require all athletic organizations to provide their employees with training on how to identify and report child abuse.

Last month, Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) and state Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) announced separate bills that would require employees of universities and colleges, including athletic directors, coaches and graduate assistants, to report suspected cases of child abuse to law enforcement. Currently, those jobs are not on California’s list of “mandated reporters.”

Federal lawmakers, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), have introduced similar legislation in Washington.

A Penn State assistant football coach who, according to a grand jury report, saw Sandusky raping a boy in the football team’s showers has been widely criticized for not reporting the incident directly to police. He did report it to the university.

Vargas said his bill would toughen the penalties for those who fail to report abuse.

“Telling their superiors was fine, but they should have gone to the police,” Vargas said in a statement. “What they did was wrong and it wasn’t a crime, but it should be. These men protected their football team rather than the innocent boys.”

RELATED:

Jerry Sandusky arrested on new charges of child sex abuse

Penn State scandal prompts calls for child-abuse reporting laws

--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

 
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