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State Senate passes bill requiring private schools to report sexual abuse

Eileen Buckley

The New York State Senate has passed a bill that would protect students from sexual abuse.  WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says this bill calls to close a loophole preventing private schools from reporting abuse and will require training. 

Three area republican senators co-sponsored the bill.  Senators Chris Jacobs of Buffalo, Michael Ranzenhofer of Amherst and Patrick Gallivan from Elma.

Gallivan tells WBFO News the senate legislation calls to expand the types of education ‘settings required to report child abuse’ and increases required training in identifying and reporting abuse.   

“This fixes that loophole and it helps to protect child in the future in the sense that everybody, regardless public, private, a specialized school, like a school for the blind or the deaf or anything like that, now has the obligation to report any of those allegations to law enforcement,” Gallivan explained.  

Last January we learned of teacher-student relationships occurring over a few decades at Nichols School in Buffalo. It was at the time there was revealed of a loophole preventing private schools from protecting children. Then at the end of last month, it was revealed The Park School was investigation allegations that four former educators in the 1970's and 80's may have engaged in inappropriate relationships with high school students.

“I was really surprised to find out when we learned of Nichols and Park situations and their investigations, that the mandatory reporting law did not apply to private schools and in very simple terms, this legislation reverses that,” remarked Gallivan. “But there is mandatory training involved as well, which equals the training that those in the public schools. Mandatory training – provisions there – the state education department will implement the regulations. It should be a two-hour course that will be available on-line at no cost to the schools.

On May 1st, the State Assembly passed the Child Victims Act.  Under the current law, sexual abuse victims seeking criminal and civil charges must file by the age of 23.  But under passage of the assembly bill, victims would allow them to seek civil charges until the age of 50 and file  criminal charges until the age of 28. But this has not passed in the senate at this time.

Senator Ranzenhofer said, “This loophole in state education law must be closed. No school should be excluded from child abuse reporting requirements. I am pleased that the legislation is advancing with passage today in the State Senate, and I am hopeful that the State Assembly will follow our lead.”

“We need to protect our children while in school, no matter the age, no matter public or private, and we need to make it law that the adults charged with caring for our children must report allegations of abuse to the proper authorities," noted Senator Jacobs.  

This senate bill passed Tuesday, only deals with the issue of schools reporting sexual abuse. It was also passed in the assembly. 

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