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Maryland remains one of two states in the nation without an essential element in place to protect children from abuse and neglect. But this week, we can change that. On March 9, in Annapolis, Baltimore Child Abuse Center will be knocking on doors and encouraging legislators to support Senate Bill 135 — introduced by Sen. Susan Lee with the support of the Maryland State's Attorneys Association and other advocates — that will create a penalty for intentional failure to report abuse.

We must hold teachers, social workers, counselors, health practitioners and other caretakers responsible. If professionals have reason to believe child abuse or neglect has occurred, Senate Bill 135 will enforce the responsibility of these professionals make a report of abuse to their local department of social services or law enforcement agency, and thus get these kids help.

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Why shouldn't Maryland have the same law as 48 other states? Every other state and territory in the country (with the exception of Wyoming), makes available to prosecutors a criminal fine and penalty if one of these required reporters knowingly violates their mandate. With such protection in place for our children, we will no longer have to agonize over failures like the one in a Prince George's County elementary school last year when more than 20 students were ignored after one student told an adult a teacher's aide was sexually assaulting him. While other states have strengthened their mandated reporting laws, Maryland continues to shirk its duty and has not enacted complementary legislation.

Astonishingly, the chief opponents of this legislation are the licensing boards themselves. These various bodies which are responsible for the ongoing education, accreditation, and licensure of their members, seem more interested in protecting their members than our state's children.

As a result, Maryland continues to have a system of professional protection rather than child protection.

But change is possible. Senate Bill 135 provides the long sought remedy to protect children and to appropriately punish those who violate their regulated duty to report child abuse and neglect. By passing this bill at long last, we will be able to close a loophole and make those caring for our children responsible for their well-being.

Adam Rosenberg, Baltimore

The writer is the executive director of Baltimore Child Abuse Center.

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