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Sweeping changes suggested for Pa. child abuse law

Sweeping changes suggested for Pa. child abuse law

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) Pennsylvania should enact sweeping changes to its child abuse laws, including stronger penalties for failing to report the crime, a legislative commission concluded Tuesday after a year of study prompted by Jerry Sandusky's arrest on molestation charges.

The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection recommended rewriting state law, redefining what constitutes child abuse and expanding the list of people who are required to report suspected abuse.

``We propose a transformation in the way information concerning child abuse is handled and maintained, the way in which crimes against children are investigated in parts of the state, and the way in which those with a responsibility for the well-being of children are trained,'' said David Heckler, the Bucks County district attorney who chaired the panel.

The recommendations are nonbinding and will probably require a set of as-yet-unwritten bills for the Legislature to consider when it convenes for a new two-year session in January.

``Strengthening these laws must be done as soon as possible, but we should recognize that it cannot be done overnight,'' Heckler said.

The Republican leader in the state Senate praised the report and said he expected some bills would move to the governor early next year, saying there would be swift action in some cases.

``We are fully prepared to commit the time and effort necessary to make our state safer for children,'' said Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi.

Sandusky, a 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach, is serving a 30- to 60-year state prison sentence after being convicted this summer of 45 counts of sexual abuse of 10 boys. He maintains his innocence and is pursuing appeals.

Heckler acknowledged that the Sandusky and Roman Catholic priest molestation scandals provided the impetus for the creation of the task force but said the panel took a wider view.

``What we did here is not a knee-jerk reaction to anything. It is a seizing of the opportunity to look at the whole system'' and gather advice from experts, he said.

One of its proposals, to increase the use of investigative teams from various fields for child abuse cases, may have prevented additional victims after Sandusky's acts drew the attention of police and child welfare workers more than a decade before his arrest, Heckler said.

``I firmly believe if there had been a multidisciplinary team in Centre County in the late '90s and early 2000s, that you would have heard about Jerry Sandusky then,'' he said.

Dr. Cindy W. Christian, a child-abuse pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, said the proposed expansion of the definition of child abuse in Pennsylvania is central to the recommendations.

The present definition ``is so narrowly defined that what is child abuse in every other state in this country is not necessarily child abuse in Pennsylvania,'' said Christian, a task force member.

Under current law, children have to show they experienced severe pain in order to substantiate abuse claims. The 11-member task force said that requirement should be eliminated and a lower bar established.

Other highlights of the recommendations include enlarging the pool of people labeled as ``perpetrators'' under one state law. Task force members said such a change would get more children help from county agencies, help authorities identify more abusers, provide a more complete picture of the amount of abuse and likely lead to more criminal investigations.

The task force also suggested setting harsher penalties when people who are required to report abuse fail to do so.

Those who should be required to report suspected abuse also should be expanded to include college administrators and employees, coaches, lawyers and computer repair people who encounter images of child abuse, the committee said.

The definition of sexual abuse also should be expanded to include sexually explicit conversations, the panel said.

Under the recommendations, more people would find themselves subject to the child endangerment criminal statute, including anyone who knowingly acts to prevent police or child welfare workers from learning of abuse in order to protect someone.

Task force member Jason Kutulakis, a Carlisle attorney, said he considered the most pressing recommendation be the expanded use of multidisciplinary investigative teams and additional child advocacy centers, so that they are located within a 90-minute drive of any Pennsylvania child.

Three Penn State officials face related charges for their actions in response to complaints about Sandusky acting inappropriately with children in Penn State showers: the university's former president Graham Spanier, former athletic director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz. Each has said he is innocent.

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Online:

http://www.childprotection.state.pa.us/index.cfm

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This Caps Stanley Cup tat has everyone's beat

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Twitter/@PeachOmania

This Caps Stanley Cup tat has everyone's beat

Since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time over one month ago, Caps fans, (and players), have rushed to their local tattoo parlor to get some ink commemorating the win.

We've seen the classic Capitals logo with the Stanley Cup, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Shane Peacher's tattoo.

Peacher tweeted to Joe B and Courtney Laughlin the finished tat: a work of art featuring Alex Ovechkin kissing the Stanley Cup for the first time as it's hoisted over his head.

Joe B replied making sure Shane had enough room on his other tricep for next year.

Shane replied that he's thinking of Evgeny Kuznetsov's iconic celebration that has since been dubbed the "birdman."

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Strasburg, Scherzer get in heated conversation after ugly inning

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Strasburg, Scherzer get in heated conversation after ugly inning

The Washington Nationals have had a less than ideal season thus far.

The reigning N.L. East champs entered the All-Star Break 5.5 games back of first place, have a new manager that has gotten his fair share of criticism, are riddled with injuries contributing to a lengthy disabled list and seem to be frustrated to no end on the baseball field.

In his first game back following a right shoulder injury that landed him on the DL for over a month, Stephen Strasburg started Friday night's game in Washington against the Braves, one of tewo teams above the Nats in the East standings.

Following a poor outing in the fifth inning in which Davey Martinez decided to pull Strasburg, fellow ace Max Scherzer attempted to greet the starter. Strasburg brushed Scherzer off as he sat down on the bench and the two got into what seemed like a very heated exchange.

The Nationals never recovered from Strasburg's start and fell to the Braves 8-5 in Washington.

The frustration was evident as Martinez met with Scherzer and Strasburg to hash out the argument, delaying postgame clubhouse access to the media while their meeting was going on.

The meeting was kept under lock by Martinez, Scherzer, and Strasburg, who chalked it up to just being a part of the "family."

According to Martinez, the dugout conversation was hashed out and he immediately brushed it off when pressed for questions.

The Nationals look to even up the series against The Braves in Washington tonight.

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