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Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 1:00pm

Lawmakers Review Child Abuse Laws

A longtime Warner Robins football booster and former announcer is jailed in Houston County on child molestation charges. Police have not revealed the specifics of the case against 82-year-old Shelly M. Simmons Sr.

It’s the latest allegation in a football season with child sex abuse investigations at Penn State and Syracuse University. And like their counterparts in other states, Georgia lawmakers are looking at Georgia’s child-abuse reporting laws in the wake of those cases.

“I think you’ll see some attention to being more specific within our state statute to specify who within an educational setting would be required [to report abuse],” said Melissa Carter, director of Emory University’s Barton Child Law and Policy Center. “[Changes might] include coaches, for example, or perhaps even include janitorial staff and bus drivers and the like.”

Right now, Georgia law requires more than a dozen categories of people to report suspected child abuse, including medical personnel, counselors, social workers, teachers, and school administrators (see the full list below). Failing to report suspected abuse is a misdemeanor for these “mandatory reporters.”

Carter said Georgia’s statute is comparable to most other states.

But she said she expects some talk of mandating that all adults report abuse, as well.

“It’s better public policy, and would be our advocacy principle as these proposals come forward, to make sure we’re designating the right people and also training them and having them be well-equipped to fulfill that duty of detecting child abuse and making those reports,” Carter said.

Meanwhile, she said the Barton Center is researching the impact of laws requiring everyone to report abuse.

State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) is among the lawmakers looking at the current law and exploring options.

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno lost his job for not doing enough to stop the alleged sexual abuse by one of his former assistants. So did the university’s president.

According to Georgia Statute (Georgia Code 19-7-5), the following categories of people are required to suspected report child abuse, including sexual abuse:

- Physicians licensed to practice medicine, interns, or residents;
- Hospital or medical personnel;
- Dentists;
- Licensed psychologists and persons participating in internships to obtain licensing;
- Podiatrists;
- Registered professional nurses or licensed practical nurses licensed;
- Professional counselors, social workers, or marriage and family therapists;
- School teachers;
- School administrators;
- School guidance counselors, visiting teachers, school social workers, or school psychologists;
- Child welfare agency personnel;
- Child-counseling personnel;
- Child service organization personnel; or
- Law enforcement personnel.

State law (Georgia Code 16-12-100) also requires people who process or produce film to report abuse they discover in processing images.