• (CNS file photo)

Church officials praise new law requiring all NY schools to report abuse

Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier    |    12.10.2018
Category: Local News

A bill recently signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will require the administrators of non-public-schools to report suspected cases of child abuse to law enforcement.

The bill, which was supported by the New York State Catholic Conference, expands an existing law that requires public-school superintendents to report suspected abuse.

Catholic officials throughout the state praised the measure.

“This legislation is a no-brainer and a critical tool in protecting children,” remarked Dennis Poust, communications director for the Catholic conference, which represents New York state’s bishops in public-policy matters.

“We are grateful to the sponsors and the governor that reporting of such abuse will now be mandated by law,” Poust said, noting that Catholic schools already report all allegations of abuse.

“We are highly supportive of this measure,” added Anthony S. Cook, superintendent of the Diocese of Rochester’s Catholic schools. “This legislation upholds our current practice.”

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma) and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City), passed unanimously in both houses of the state legislature during the 2018 legislative session and was delivered to Gov. Cuomo on Nov. 26. The governor signed it Dec. 7.

Private schools previously had been exempt from the law requiring public-school superintendents to report abuse, but recent high-profile scandals involving cover-ups at exclusive, independent private schools in various parts of the state have highlighted the fact that private schools never should have been exempt from the original law in the first place, Poust added.

The new law also ends previous exemptions for other schools, including New York City’s public schools as well as charter schools and schools for children with disabilities.

Since 2002 the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People has required Catholic schools to report allegations of abuse to law enforcement, and the New York State Council of Catholic School Superintendents supported the new legislation, Poust said.

“The bishops of New York state hope that the tragic abuse crisis in the church’s recent past can serve as a cautionary tale for all organizations that deal with children, including public and private schools,” Poust said. “And we further hope that the reforms we’ve implemented since 2002 can likewise serve as a model for best practices in how to protect children from abuse. We think this newly signed law is a step in that direction.”

The new law also requires teachers, administrators and school-bus drivers in non-public schools to complete two hours of training in the identification and reporting of child abuse and maltreatment.

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