Bill mandating police report suspected child abuse stalled

While more professionals have been added to the ‘must report’ list, one group never has been

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – In 1962, two doctors published “The Battered Child Syndrome,” and within a year, the Ohio legislature passed a law that mandated doctors and nurses report child abuse.

It has been more than 50 years since that legislation passed, and while more professionals have been added to the ‘must report’ list; one group never has been.

Perhaps we take it for granted that law enforcement is always going to do the right thing, even if it isn’t obvious.

Democratic State Representative Bernadine Kennedy Kent is sponsoring a bill as a freshman legislator that would add law enforcement to the list of professionals that must report child abuse even if it is just suspected.

According to the lawmaker, her time spent advocating for children suffering from abuse brought to her attention a situation in which police were called to a family’s home more than 60 times for domestic disturbances and abuse. She says, the police never once notified child services.

There was no requirement for them to do so, and they may not have seen any effects of physical harm on the children at the time; but she says the violence of domestic abuse can be perpetrated on more than just one target in the home.

House Bill 137 would make it mandatory for those officers to notify child services so the organization can check on the children to make sure they were not being abused.

If they are not, then nothing will come of it; but if the children are, then the organization can take steps to end that abuse. That is something they could not do if they never learned of the abuse in the first place, according to the representative.

Several law enforcement organizations, including the Fraternal Order of Police support the bill, according to its sponsor, and it passed favorably through the House committee it was assigned to.

It has been just sitting there waiting for an opportunity to get a vote on the House floor for a few weeks now.

Two weeks ago, the House did not hold a voting session, and last week the bill wasn’t heard. According to a GOP spokesman, no vote will happen this week for the bill either.

If it does eventually get a favorable vote on the House floor and pass the chamber, the legislation would then have to start the process over again in the Senate.

Few bills sponsored solely by a Democrat, that were not commemorative days or dealing with renaming roads and creating license plates, have made it through the GOP controlled legislature.

And as the first half of the 132nd General Assembly approaches, the question now is; would there be enough time to get the bill through the Senate before time runs out?

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