State lawmakers consider reporting bills

With the support of the Catholic Church, the House of Delegates unanimously passed a bill Feb. 22 requiring law enforcement agencies to notify nonpublic school superintendents or principals when one of their students is arrested for a serious crime. The Senate version of the bill is now under consideration in Annapolis.

The Senate also passed a bill on a 35-10 vote Feb. 23 that would make it a crime for health care workers, police officers, educators, medical examiners, parole officers and human service workers acting in those professional capacities to fail to report suspected child abuse. The misdemeanor offense would be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. Richard J. Dowling, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, will testify in support of that reporting legislation when the House of Delegates takes it up with March 6 hearings.

“Calling for penalties of one kind or another just doesn’t fit comfortably within the church’s agenda,” said Mr. Dowling. “Here, though, we make a scarecrow of the law if we say it’s important to report suspected child abuse and then don’t hold people who fail to do so responsible under the law.”

In testimony submitted to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Feb. 13 about the notification bill for nonpublic school superintendents and principals, Alison D’Alessandro, director of the archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection, said the measure is needed to help promote the safety and well-being of children.

The proposed law is identical to one that already applies to public schools, informing public school leaders when their students commit crimes like assaults, firearms violations, sex offenses and bomb threats. The legislation will help ensure nonpublic schools are able to provide “appropriate supervision over students who may pose a potential danger to others,” Ms. D’Alessandro said.

“Without this legislation, we have no ability to ensure that we are even aware of this potential danger,” she said.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.