'Jerry Sandusky bill' in Legislature would make it a crime not to report child abuse

Washington state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle

Should adults face jail time if they fail to report child abuse?

Some state lawmakers think so, and want to make it a crime if people see it happening and don't report it.

They're calling one of these proposals the Jerry Sandusky bill, named after the former Penn State assistant football coach accused of sexually abusing children on campus.

“I think it`s very important we do something here,” Sen.Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, said in an interview.  

She is sponsoring a bill that will do what she says Penn State administrators failed to do -- protect kids who are on college campuses.  Kohl-Welles’ proposal would require employees working in academic and athletic departments to report any suspected child abuse.

“We cannot tolerate having children, young teenagers, coming to college campuses or going anywhere in our state and being subject to such horrible maltreatment,” Kohl-Welles said.

If her bill passes, college administrators found not reporting abuse would face misdemeanor charges, and up to a year in jail.

Some lawmakers want to go even further.

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, is sponsoring a similar bill, but hers would require any adult in the state to report cases of child abuse.

She was motivated not so much by the Sandusky case, but by the case of a local pastor, Timothy Dampier, accused of molesting several boys. One of the alleged victims said he told an adult about the abuse, but nothing was done.

Dickerson said she believes there's a moral obligation to report abuse of our most vulnerable. She wants to make it a legal one as well.

“I think most people do the right thing, and this bill is a reminder to those who may question whether or not to report something that this is also their obligation,” she said.