RadioPA Roundtable

Radio PA Roundtable 11.30.12

On this week’s Radio PA Roundtable, Matt Paul breaks down the sweeping recommendations of Pennsylvania’s Task Force on Child Protection. He’ll also be jointed by Radio PA Sports Director Rick Becker to look back at an unprecedented season of Penn State football, and learn how budget cuts are affecting the state’s nonprofit sector.

Radio PA Roundtable is a 30-minute program featuring in-depth reporting on the top news stories of the week.

Click the audio player below to hear the full broadcast:


House Committee Considers Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Bill

The state house Education Committee is considering a bill to add child exploitation to the health curriculum in Pennsylvania schools.  The committee held a hearing on HB 2318.

The sponsor of the bill, Representative Mauree Gingrich (R-Leb) says over 90% of abusers are well known to the child.  She says the bill would help educate children about the risks and how to recognize dangerous situations and the warning signs of grooming.

Gingrich says the best defense we can provide our children is knowledge. She adds that awareness is a powerful tool in the fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation.  She says the Department of Education would develop age appropriate curriculum for grades K through 8.

The measure has bipartisan support.  Representative James Roebuck, minority chair of the education committee, says the bill is the next logical step after efforts to strengthen background checks and increase reporting requirements.   He says it’s an effort that transcends party and political differences.  He says our young children are our future and it’s the responsibility of elected officials to help protect them.

Former University of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia Eagle linebacker Al Chesley spoke in favor of the bill.  He says he was sexually abused by a policeman, who was a neighbor, when he was 13 years old.  He says when you arm kids with education, they begin to be empowered.

Erin Merryn of Illinois would like to see all fifty states pass such a bill. She says four states have already acted. A survivor of child sexual abuse, Merryn says we have to empower kids to tell, tell, tell.

Child Abuse Bills Await Governor’s Signature

Under current law teachers are “mandated reporters” of child abuse, but state Senator Pat Vance (R-Cumberland) says only 15% of school districts provide any kind of training to help them recognize it.  Vance is the prime sponsor legislation that will require school employees, who have direct contact with children, to receive at least three hours of training in child abuse identification every five years.

“It’s always been important but since the recent publicity coming out of State College it has become even more vitally important,” says Vance, who has introduced this bill before.

The reference to “recent publicity,” of course, refers to the Jerry Sandusky trial.  Vance’s bill received unanimous House votes on June 18th (day five of testimony in the child sex abuse trial).  The Senate unanimously concurred in House amendments on June 25th (the first session day following Sandusky’s conviction on 48 charges of child sex abuse).

Jerry Sandusky is currently locked up in the Centre County Correctional Facility. He will appeal the conviction.

Jerry Sandusky is currently locked up in the Centre County Correctional Facility. He will appeal the conviction.

Also awaiting the governor’s signature is legislation that will allow expert witnesses to put sexual assault victims’ behavior into context at trial.  “We have seen how the defendant in the sexual assault case being heard in Centre County was permitted to provide an expert witness to explain the defendant’s behavior but Pennsylvania case law prohibits the prosecution from presenting expert witnesses,” Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-Philadelphia) explained in a June 21st statement.  That was also the date the Sandusky jury began its deliberations.

The changes to Pennsylvania’s child abuse statutes may not stop with these two bills.  A Task Force on Child Protection was tapped in the wake of the Sandusky grand jury to review the state’s child abuse policies and procedures.  The task force’s final report is due by November 30th.

Task Force on Child Protection Prepares to Start Work

Ten members have been appointed to a task force that will review Pennsylvania’s child protection laws and procedures for reporting abuse.   David Heckler, the Bucks County District Attorney, will chair the Task Force on Child Protection.

The panel has been charged with reviewing the laws, practices, processes and procedures relating to Pennsylvania’s response to child abuse. Heckler says the resolution creating the task force calls for at least five meetings between now and September 30th, so he’s anxious to get staff in place and gather the members of the task force to start setting the agenda.  

Heckler says he’s impressed with the scope and depth of knowledge the task force members bring to this work.  He’s also looking forward to hearing from experts around the country.  He adds there will be hearings to get the public’s input as well.  The final report is due by November 30th.

Heckler, a former judge, says it’s important that the state create child protection laws that are realistic. He says such laws must place responsibilities and criminal burdens that the public and juries can support.

Heckler says they need to tap the very substantial expertise on the panel, throughout the Commonwealth and beyond, and then start reaching conclusions.

The members of the task force were appointed by the governor and legislation as outlined in House Resolution 522 and Senate Resolution 250.

 The four members appointed by the governor are:

  • David  Heckler, Bucks County District Attorney;
  • William Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation
  • Dr. Cindy W. Christian, M.D., director of Safe Place: The Center for Child Protection and Health, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Delilah Rumburg, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center


Members appointed by the Senate are:

  • Dr. Rachel Berger, member of Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Garrison Ipock Jr., executive director, The Glen Mills Schools, Glen Mills
  • Carol Hobbs-Picciotto, MHS, Intake Social Worker, City of Philadelphia


 Members appointed by the House are:

  • Jason Kutalakis, senior partner, Abom & Kutalakis LLP, Carlisle
  • Jackie Bernard, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Blair County
  • Hon. Arthur Grim, Senior Judge, Court of Common Pleas of Berks County


Sandusky Fallout, in their Own Words

Mark Costanzo

Mark Costanzo

By waiving his right to a preliminary hearing, Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse charges will advance to a likely trial in 2012.  Senior Deputy Attorney General Mark Costanzo says the Commonwealth was ready to proceed with Tuesday’s hearing:


Sandusky’s attorney Joe Amendola took to the Centre County Courthouse steps, in Bellefonte, to explain the surprise move:  


Joe Amendola

Joe Amendola

Attorney Howard Janet, who represents the accuser known as “victim 6” in the grand jury report, reacts to Tuesday’s events:


Howard Janet

Howard Janet

Attorney Slade McLaughlin, who represents the accuser known as “victim 1,” says the waiver shows weakness in the defense:


Slade McLaughlin

Slade McLaughlin

However Joe Amendola maintains that there have been – and will be – no plea negotiations.  Sandusky will not have to be present for his formal arraignment on January 11th.  In fact, Amendola says they’ve already entered a plea of “not guilty,” and requested a jury trial.

New Website Simplifies Process for Reporting Suspected Child Abuse

A new website is on line to provide statewide resources for reporting and preventing child abuse.  It’s a joint effort of Penn State’s College of Medicine, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and School of Law.

Look Out for Child Abuse” is designed to be a one stop resource for completing a CY-47 form, Pennsylvania’s official form for reporting suspected abuse. A video on the site walks a person through the process step-by-step, helping users compose a detailed easy-to-read report. The forms will still have to be printed and sent to the appropriate county children and youth agency.  However, a pilot program will be tested with Cumberland County Children and Youth Service for a form that could be submitted electronically.

The website  also includes legal information, resources for victims and educational tools. Dr. Benjamin Levi, professor of pediatrics and humanities at the Penn State College of Medicine, says one of the  things they’ve tried to do, is to make the website very accessible to lots of people for lots of different reasons. He says the opening page includes a site map that will allow people to navigate easily and quickly.

Dr. Levi says the goal is to make the reporting information widely available.  He says Pennsylvania is one of the lowest reporting states in the country for child abuse.  He says the rate is less than half of the national average and presumably that’s not because there are fewer children being abused in Pennsylvania, it’s because people don’t report as often.

Dr. Harold Paz, CEO of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, says we recognize the problem of child abuse is not simply a medical problem, or a legal problem. He says it’s an issue that affects children across the Commonwealth and we need to make creative and collaborative approaches if we’re going to be able to stop abuse.

Former Pennsylvania First Lady Michele Ridge is a member of Vision of Hope’s Advisory Council for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape. She says child sexual abuse is a serious problem. She says protecting children from sexual  abuse is a shared responsibility. Mrs. Ridge  says these critical new tools through “Look Out for Child Abuse” will help them achieve their goal.

Ridge says all of us must work together by joining the fight to help protect the hopes and dreams of our children.

The site address is

* Photo courtesy of “Look Out for Child Abuse” website.