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New Ga. law compels volunteers to report child abuse

Coaches, scoutmasters, others face penalities if they ignore signs

Friday, June 29, 2012 7:11 AM
Last updated 10:48 PM
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ATLANTA — Scoutmasters, soccer coaches and other volunteers who work with youth will face legal penalties if they ignore signs of child abuse under a new law taking effect in Georgia this weekend.

House Bill 1176, based on recommendations from a citizen commission appointed to review sentencing, passed the General Assembly this year unanimously.

Professionals, such as pediatricians and teachers, have long had a legal obligation to report suspected abuse within 24 hours or face a year in prison and a fine. What’s new is that a provision in the sweeping criminal-justice reform widens that responsibility to include volunteers and clergy.

“From an ethical and moral standpoint, volunteers who work with children already have an obligation to report suspected child abuse,” said Attorney General Sam Olens. “HB 1176 simply makes this obligation a requirement by law.”

Many organizations working with children already have policies that require volunteer training and background checks.

Protecting youth is central to the mission of the YMCA, notes Bucky Johnson, the senior vice president at the YMCA of Savannah.

Georgia Soccer, the organizing body for most recreational leagues, has a policy in place that exceeds the law’s requirements, according to Rick Skirvin, the group’s executive director.

“In 2009 (our Risk Management Committee) decided to tackle the issue on our own because we thought it was an issue that was neglected in youth sports,” he said.

Johnson said the abuse-awareness training given volunteers has paid off.

“We’ve had coaches come to us and make reports that a particular player seemed out of sorts or had some bruising or whatever,” he said. “When we see that, we’re in immediate contact with Family and Children Services.”

In small organizations that don’t have established programs, volunteers may consider getting training elsewhere.

“We’re more than happy to provide youth-protection training for someone like that,” said Jeff Schwab, an executive with the Boy Scouts of America in Augusta.

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Iwannakno 06/29/12 - 07:47 am
unecessary law

How are you going to prove they knew? Just another useless law.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 06/29/12 - 08:51 am

Will they need to hire some more policemen, prosecutors and judges to enforce this law?

Doesn't every citizen have the Constitutional right to remain silent? Wouldn't this law contradict our right to remain silent?

How, indeed, would a policeman go about enforcing this law on a routine basis?

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 06/29/12 - 08:51 am
Does this mean an end to the "see no evil, hear no evil, and...

speak no evil" philosophy promoted among members by at least one local church?

DMPerryJr 06/29/12 - 09:32 am
Weird Law

but I hope it will serve to compel people to speak out when they see signs of child abuse.

I recently called the authorities on a neighbor after seeing him spank his child for crying after being tackled in a backyard football game.

TheBigBonk 06/30/12 - 10:48 am
Little Lamb

Just want to reiterate some information that you probably already know but is seldom said: (1) the lawmakers in Atlanta care NOTHING about the constitution. To them it is a tired old document that can be ignored if their own interests are at stake. (2) the lawmakers in Atlanta care NOTHING about little children. They will try and make you and I think that they do, just to get votes. If you play the "children" card, you're sure to get at least some votes. (Except maybe from Catholic priests). In a coming day, I will witness someone running a red light, decide NOT to call Big Brother and I will be sent to jail.

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