New York governor wants to outlaw coaches' silence on sex abuse

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 15, 2011 4:43 PM
New York governor wants to outlaw coaches' silence on sex abuse

By Aman Ali

NEW YORK (Reuters) - High school and college coaches who fail to report child sex abuse to police would be breaking the law under new legislation sought by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The proposed bill, prompted by child sex abuse allegations involving athletic departments at Syracuse University and Penn State, will be introduced when the state legislature reconvenes in January, the governor's office said on Thursday.

"Parents need to be sure that their children are safe in programs and activities that are organized by and at colleges," Cuomo said in a statement.

"This legislation will ensure that those who harm our children are reported as quickly as possible to law enforcement."

The planned bill mandates that all high school coaches and college employees report child sex abuse to law enforcement. The current law does not cover college employees and at the high school level is limited to education and health care workers.

At Penn State, former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with sexually abusing young boys and former school officials were accused of a cover-up. They never went to police after a graduate assistant reported in 2002 that he saw Sandusky raping a boy in a Penn State locker room.

At Syracuse University, assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine was fired over allegations he molested teenage ballboys. The school investigated the allegations in 2005 but never notified police.

New York assemblyman Jim Tedisco, a Republican, said he introduced a similar college coach reporting bill last month and applauded the Democratic governor for broadening the initiative to include high school coaches.

"The good news is we're one step closer to protecting our children," Tedisco said. "Certainly after the Penn State issue and the Syracuse issue, we need to have another set of eyes and ears on college campuses."

Mike Foster, executive director of the New York State High School Coaches Association, an organization of over 1,500 coaches, said his organization is meeting on Monday and will discuss the initiative.

A spokesman for the United University Professions, a union that represents 34,000 professors in the state university system, said the organization is waiting to see the legislation before commenting.

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)