In response to Thursday's story
on Minnesota's confusing mandated reporter law, Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, has proposed making all people in the state legally responsible for reporting incidents of child abuse or neglect.
Currently, state statute specifies several professionals such as teachers and day-care workers who are legally required to report abuse cases. But the statute leaves open to interpretation whether certain volunteers and coaches are mandated reporters. A top attorney with the Minnesota Judicial Branch said Wednesday that she believes all youth sports coaches are mandated reporters, for example, while other law enforcement officials and advocates disagreed.
“The current law is ambiguous at best and contains dangerous loopholes at worst,” Winkler said in a press release. “There is no more heinous crime than robbing the innocence of a young child. We need to ensure that this law is clear and fulfilling its purpose of protecting children.”
The distinction of being a mandated reporter means that someone could face misdemeanor charges (and felony charges in limited circumstances) for failing to report incidents in which adults are abusing children in their care. All reporters, mandated or voluntary, are afforded protection from retaliation for notifying authorities of legitimate concerns. That would not extend to people trying to harass others by making up false of abuse, though.
According to the press release:
Rep. Winkler’s bill would require anyone who knows or has reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected to report their knowledge. Currently, only certain professionals have an obligation to report and this bill would expand that obligation to everyone. This is currently required in 18 states. The bill would also require that reports of child abuse or neglect must be made to law enforcement, and reports made only to employers, counties, state agencies, etc., do not satisfy the reporting requirement.
In addition, any agency, governmental unit, or private institution that is investigating a suspected case of child abuse or neglect would be required to report their investigation to law enforcement and cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation. The bill also specifies that all privileged communication protections are inapplicable to child abuse or neglect. Attorney-client, doctor-patient, husband-wife, clergy-congregant, etc., communications are not protected.
Finally, these reporting requirements would also be made applicable to vulnerable adults in an effort to protect people who are unable to protect themselves.
Thursday's story was about how state law applies to coaches in youth sports clubs, but leaders of other non-profit organizations are now wondering about their requirements as well. Leaders of the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America contacted the Minnesota Department of Human Services today, hoping to learn whether their volunteer scout leaders are mandated reporters. They had been told by county child welfare officials that their volunteers were not mandated reporters, but the state attorney's legal interpretation would suggest otherwise.