Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, the former Cobb County Commission chairman, is alerting Georgians that beginning July 1, volunteers who work with children will be required by law to report suspected child abuse, according to a news release.
The new mandatory reporting requirement is a provision in HB 1176, the criminal justice reform bill signed by Gov. Nathan Deal on May 2.
Specifically, HB 1176 changes the definition of “child service organization personnel” to include volunteers. The new law defines “child service organization personnel” as follows:
‘Child service organization personnel' means persons employed by or volunteering at a business or an organization, whether public, private, for profit, not for profit, or voluntary, that provides care, treatment, education, training, supervision, coaching, counseling, recreational programs, or shelter to children.
“From an ethical and moral standpoint, volunteers who work with children already have an obligation to report suspected child abuse,” said Olens, an East Cobb resident. “HB 1176 simply makes this obligation a requirement by law.”
The law comes at a time when child abuse unreported by those who work with children has made recent headlines.
In April, Tapp Middle School Principal Principal Jerry Dority and school counselor Yatta Collins were fired by a unanimous vote from the Cobb Board of Education for failing to report suspected abuse of a student to authorities within the required 24-hour timeframe. The two reported the child's claims of sexual molestation after the 24-hour period, which resulted in their arrests, .
Additionally, the widely publicized trial of former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky just began. Sandusky has been charged with sexually abusing 10 boys, whom he allegedly met through his charity for underprivileged children called Second Mile, over 15 years.
Former Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz have been charged with failure to report child abuse to the authorities after a graduate assistant informed them that he saw a naked Sandusky in the locker room shower touching a naked young boy in 2002.
Curley denies being told that Sandusky was raping the young boy. Schultz, who oversaw university police, said he never reported it or asked the graduate assistant for details.
The new Georgia law would make it illegal to neglect to report abuse claims like these even if the person who suspects child abuse is a volunteer.
The law also require church pastors and volunteers to report child abuse, and one local child advocacy group states that churches are unprepared for that responsibility.