January 25, 2012
To: Members of the Judiciary Committee
From: Sarah Forrest – Policy Coordinator, Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice
Re: Support for LB 839 – School Reporting of Sexual Abuse
All of Nebraska’s children deserve to live, grow, and attend school in safe environments – free of abuse and neglect. A crucial part of keeping children safe is working to both prevent and report suspected child abuse or neglect. Between 1990 and 2009, the number of cases of child sexual abuse declined 61 percent nationally due to the success of public education programs that encouraged reporting by both children and adults. Nebraska cannot boast having a similar trend (see Table 1).
Table 1. Substantiated Cases of Sexual Abuse in Nebraska, 2003- 2010
Nebraska is one of eighteen states in the country that has a mandatory reporting law. Any person who has witnessed or has a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect is requires to make a report to either law enforcement or the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Despite the law, however, incidences of child abuse and neglect continue to go unreported, sometimes due to institutional policies or lack of education.
Voices for Children in Nebraska supports LB 839 as an important first step in guaranteeing schools report sexual abuse. Children’s safety should never be compromised, even when personnel matters are involved. LB 839 clarifies the intent of Nebraska’s mandatory reporting law when it comes to schools and allegations of serious abuse. Nebraskans, both parents and children, count on schools to be safe. We urge you to advance LB 839 as an important protection for children in our state.
Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions. Thank you for your work on behalf of Nebraska’s children.