The Michigan House of Representatives has passed a package of bills related to reporting sexual abuse. Lawmakers say they introduced these bills because of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case.
The bills would add athletic trainers, physical therapists, and physical therapist assistants to the list of mandatory reporters of child abuse, neglect or sexual abuse. They would be required to report to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Republican State Representative Beth Griffin is a co-sponsor of one of the five bills. She says these bills are a step forward to protect kids in Michigan.
More than one of the Nassar survivors were from the Kalamazoo area, Rep. Griffin's district. She says hearing from the survivors is what initially got her involved, as well as her own experience as a gymnast and later a coach. She says the nature of the bill - involving gymnastics - devastated her and made her want to be apart of the bill package.
Griddin says, "The package will increase the number of watchful eyes for young people in potential situations of criminal sexual abuse. And it tightens up a little bit on people in authority that are told about something, they can't just ignore it."
Rep. Julie Alexander’s (R-Jackson) bill (HB 4374) would bar people in a position of authority from stopping others from reporting abuse. If convicted, people could face a ten year felony.
Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Mt. Pleasant) sponsored one of the five bills. His bill adds athletic trainers and physical therapists to the list of mandatory reporters of child abuse.
"When you send your child to college you would assume that they're going to be safe and that the college is going to protect them, right. Apparently, there was a massive failure at Michigan State and we want to make sure that that does not happen at any other university," Hauck says.
The bill does not include coaches as mandatory reporters. The original bill, which was not acted on during the last term and died, included coaches.
Griffin says taking coaches out as mandatory reporters disappointed her. However, she explains that it is hard to define a coach. "They range from part-time parent volunteer to something like Kathie Klages at MSU."
Griffin says, “Any adult that is in a position of authority and could potentially be approached in a situation like this, where a child says I think something happened to me, morally I think they have an obligation to protect that child.”
Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton) says these bills are just the beginning of a multi-bill package and that there are more bills waiting in the House now.