Penn State scandal sparks Senate hearing on child abuse

A Senate panel is delving into whether state and federal reporting requirements for child abuse are adequate in the wake of back-to-back sexual abuse scandals at three U.S. educational institutions, including Pennsylvania State University. In all three cases, officials are accused of ignoring warning signs and allegations, sometimes for years.

Former National Hockey League player and sexual abuse survivor Sheldon Kennedy will be the star witness at the hearing of the Senate Health subpanel on Children and Families. The former Red Wings player has accused his minor league coach of sexually assaulting him when he was a teenager and is co-founder of the advocacy group Respect Group, Inc.

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The hearing will also examine "proposals aimed at better protecting against, preventing, intervening in and deterring child abuse," according to a release from the office of Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

This isn't the first time lawmakers have weighed in since the Penn State scandal broke last month.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) has called for a congressional investigation into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) has said she will introduce legislation blocking federal funds for institutions found to have covered up sexual abuse against children. 

And the day after Penn State fired football coach Joe Paterno, Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey Jr. and Pat Toomey said they no longer supported awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Penn State is dealing with the more infamous scandal — former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky faces more than 50 counts of sexual abuse — but other institutions are also under the spotlight. Former Syracuse basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine is also accused of sexually abusing young boys, as is Louis ReVille, a former counselor at The Citadel state military college in South Carolina.