Nancy Jacobs wants criminal penalty for failing to report abuse

With the child sex-abuse scandal at Penn State continuing to play out, Maryland Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who represents Harford County, wants to institute a criminal penalty in Maryland for those who are required to report child abuse and fail to do so.

"In Maryland now people are required to report child abuse to police or social services with few exceptions, yet surprisingly there is no criminal penalty if they don't," she wrote on her website.

Jacobs, who said in October she is considering running for Congress, announced late last week she plans to talk with child abuse experts to put together legislation in light of the dismissal of Penn State's assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for alleged sex abuse and longtime football coach Joe Paterno for failing to report abuse to police.

"The Penn State scandal is a troubling example of how critical it is for people to report sexual child abuse if they witness it or hear it from the victim. Otherwise many more lives can be damaged as additional victims are preyed upon by the pedophile," Jacobs wrote on her website.

While the law says teachers can be dismissed or suspended for failing to report abuse, Jacobs said she has started drafting a bill to establish a criminal penalty and is working with the state's attorney and sexual assault centers to decide what it should be.

"I hope you will support me in this effort. If you know someone in our state convicted of sexual child abuse that could have been caught earlier had people come forth to report it, please respond with an e-mail on this web site and we will contact you," Jacobs wrote.

Jacobs told a follower on her Facebook page she would renew her fight for the legislation, which was brought up in the past.

"They wouldn't listen to us then, but perhaps they will listen to us now given what has happened at Penn State. How many more young boys were sexually abused because those in authority failed to report this terrible crime against a child?" she wrote on Facebook.

Some of her followers agreed about the need for such a bill.

"Start enforcing and stop the good ole buddy code when it comes to protecting children," Linda Spamer Dewey, of Jarrettsville, wrote. "Forget the chain of command, go to the top or where ever you have to go to protect the children."

Pam Tomlinson, president of Kids Defense Team Inc., in North East, wrote, "Kids Defense Team is behind you."

"Yes! Lets keep our children safe & healthy! When in doubt, report!" Tina Bland wrote.

Leila Dene Muse, of Baltimore, wrote there is general misinformation about what puts a child at risk and what can be done about it.

"School personnel are not trained in child sexual abuse prevention or identification, kids having [post-traumatic stress disorder] (abuse) symptoms are labeled [with attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder] or just problem kids without understanding trauma in a child looks like [ADHD] or any number of other defiant or withdrawn or acting out diagnosis. Adults place responsibility on the child, & so does the court system. Laws protect the perpetrators, not the victims," she wrote.

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