Governor, legislators praised on abuse reporting legislation

Published on December 10th, 2018

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill that requires non-public school administrators to report suspected cases of child abuse to law enforcement. The New York State Catholic Conference, which supported the bill, praised the governor and lawmakers for the new legislation. It followed a series of high-profile scandals involving cover-ups at exclusive independent private schools in various parts of the state.

The bill, sponsored by State Sen. Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma) and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City), passed unanimously in both houses of the state legislature in the 2018 legislative session, and was delivered to the governor on Nov. 26. It expands an existing law requiring public school superintendents to report abuse. Cuomo signed the bill Dec. 7.

“This legislation is a no-brainer and a critical tool in protecting children. We are grateful to the sponsors and the governor that reporting of such abuse will now be mandated by law,” said Dennis Poust, director of communications for the Catholic Conference, which represents the New York State Bishops in public policy matters. 

Poust noted that while Catholic schools, like all Church entities, already report all child abuse cases to law enforcement, the scandals in secular private schools across the state in recent years “have demonstrated why there never should have been such an exemption in law in the first place.”

Catholic schools, which are covered by the new law, already are required by the U.S. Bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to report allegations of abuse to law enforcement. The legislation was supported by the NYS Council of Catholic School Superintendents.

In addition to adding non-public school administrators, the new law also extends the reporting mandate to New York City public schools, which previously had been exempted from the law, as well as charter schools, special schools for children with disabilities (called 853 Programs), and others.

It also requires teachers, administrators and school bus drivers in non-public schools to complete two hours of coursework or training regarding the identification and reporting of child abuse and maltreatment.

“The Bishops of New York State hope that the tragic abuse crisis in the Church’s recent past can serve as a cautionary tale for all organizations that deal with children, including public and private schools,” Poust said. “And we further hope that the reforms we’ve implemented since 2002 can likewise serve as a model for best practices in how to protect children from abuse. We think this newly signed law is a step in that direction.”