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Kessler Seeks Review of Child Abuse Laws

December 9, 2011
By JOSELYN KING - Political Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler wants a review of the state's child abuse reporting laws in light of related scandals in nearby Pennsylvania at Penn State University.

He noted existing West Virginia laws are more strict than those in most other states, but Kessler, D-Marshall, said West Virginia's laws need to require more of those entrusted with the care of children. They also need to provide more protection for those who report suspected child abuse.

He has directed Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and committee members to analyze existing laws and meet with child care workers on the issue of child abuse reporting.

"They can tell us if they have any suggested changes to the law, or if we have any gaps or shortcomings," Kessler said. "We're just trying to be proactive."

Results of the review will be used to craft any needed legislation, which would be introduced during the next regular session of the West Virginia Legislature that convenes Jan. 11.

West Virginia law presently requires teachers and medical providers to inform law enforcement when they suspect someone in their care may have been the victim of child abuse.

But Kessler believes this law should be extended to include anyone who is entrusted with the care of children through extra-curricular activities.

"Also, we're going to have to provide corresponding whistle-blower protections," he added.

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