After Penn State scandal, Menendez proposes making failure to report child abuse a felony

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) announced Tuesday his plans to introduce legislation that would link state child abuse reporting standards to federal social services funding as a response to allegations of sex abuse at Penn State University.

“If common sense doesn’t dictate when and to whom an adult should report child abuse, this law will,” Menendez said in a statement.

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A former member of the Penn State football coaching team, Jerry Sandusky, has been charged with molesting eight boys over the course of 15 years, with some of the abuse taking place in the university football complex. Sandusky has denied the charges of sexual assault.

Menendez’s call to “create consistency among state child abuse reporting laws” is a response to evidence that members of the university staff knew about the alleged abuse as early as 2002.

“The bottom line is simple: If you see something, say something,” Menendez said.

The legislation, called the Child Abuse Reporting Enforcement (CARE) Act, would require states to mandate the reporting of child abuse to law enforcement and child protective services in order to receive federal social services funding, and to make it a felony with a penalty of at least a year in prison for any individual who fails to report such abuse, according to Menendez’s office.

President Obama said last week that the scandal still gripping Penn State demonstrated that people need to “step up” in similar situations. He appealed to individual decency rather than relying “on bureaucracy and systems in these kinds of situations.”