Politics

Bill aims to make coaches mandated reporters

Monday, December 12, 2011

The fallout from the Penn State sex abuse scandal is reaching California. State lawmakers are moving forward to make any organization that has athletic programs do more to protect children from sex abuse. There are already good laws on the books, but lawmakers say they are not good enough when it comes to kids' sports.

The Penn State child sex abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky sounded the alarm on how coaches can and do sometimes take advantage of their power. It is not hard to find similar cases in California. Just two weeks ago, a jury convicted Coach Melvin Flemings of using six of his high school basketball players in sexual videos and photos. One of the victim's mothers, who did not want to be identifed for fear of exposing her son, says the abuse changed their lives forever.

Now, California lawmakers want to help make sports programs safer for kids. The latest bill about to be introduced requires organizations that employ coaches and athletic directors to provide 2-hour training on what is inappropriate and illegal contact with minors.

"Sometimes it takes a very high-profile case that shocks our conscience to get us to act," Assm. Roger Dickinson of Sacramento said Monday.

Dickinson also wants to add coaches to the list of professionals that must report sexual abuse of a child to law enforcement authorities. Penn State's legendary head coach Joe Paterno was highly criticized and eventually fired after reporting Sandusky only to university administrators.

"It's not just tell your superior. It's tell the police. It's criminal conduct," Dickinson added.

Former WNBA star-turned-coach Ruthie Bolton says she doesn't mind having to go through the extra training and requirements. Young athletes are supposed to trust their coaches.

"Sometimes people say it's not my business. I don't want to get into it, but it is our business. They need us," she said.

Another bill by Assemblyman Ricardo Lara seeks to take away the tax-exempt status of little leagues or basketball camps if they conceal or fail to report the sexual abuse of a child.

Opponents can submit their concerns to lawmakers when they reconvene in January.

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sacramento, crime, sex offender, bills, politics, nannette miranda
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