An Oregon law that went into effect Tuesday requires all higher education employees — from professors and administrators to maintenance staff and student workers — to report any incidents of child abuse they learn about, even if the incidents are not related to their job.
The law, which affects about 1,300 Rogue Valley employees at Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College, requires workers to report suspected or known abuse, regardless of whether the abuse is related to their job or is discovered while they are in an official capacity.
"I absolutely agree with this move," said Marlene Mish, director of the Children's Advocacy Center in Medford. "I personally believe all adults should be mandated reporters. All adults should have responsibility over children."
Mish said she hopes universities will properly train staff to be mandated reporters.
"There will have to be a lot of training that goes on, teaching people what to look for," said SOU Director of Human Resources Jay Stephens.
Stephens said SOU is communicating with other universities as the school develops a reporting policy for employees, and that the school likely will hold trainings for the roughly 700 employees on staff who will now be mandated reporters.
Introduced as House Bill 4016 in February 2012, the legislation followed the Penn State University scandal in 2011, in which former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of sexually assaulting at least eight young boys on university property.
An investigation into the assaults determined that university employees, including the school president and head football coach, had known about the allegations and chosen not to report them.
While several high-school level employees subject to mandatory reporting laws were reprimanded for their role in covering up the scandal, university employees were not subject to mandatory reporting.
The school's president resigned, and the head football coach and athletic director were fired. The U.S. Department of Education continues to investigate whether the school followed federal law when reporting the incident.
Oregon's new law requires that all higher education employees, including athletic coaches and trainers, be mandated reporters.
The law also makes employees of public or private organizations that provide services to youth to be mandated reporters.
Some people are nervous about becoming mandated reporters, Mish said, out of fear that they will be identified as the reporter or that they might misreport it or somehow make the situation worse.
"A lot of people don't want to be mandated reporters because they're afraid. They fear getting involved," said Mish. "But we must get involved."
Last month, RCC conducted training at each of its three campuses, teaching employees about their responsibilities under the new law, according to spokesperson Margaret Bradford.
The school is offering online training about detection of child abuse.Roughly 600 employees at RCC are now mandated reporters.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459or firstname.lastname@example.org.