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Vargas to introducee bill requiring coaches to report child abuse

By James R. Riffel

City News Service

A state senator who represents the San Diego area said Wednesday he plans to introduce a bill that would make college sports coaches legally mandated to report instances of child abuse to law enforcement.

Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, said his bill would also toughen penalties for all so-called “mandated reporters” if they do not live up to their obligations.

His bill is in response to the scandal at Penn State University, where a former football defensive coordinator is accused of child molestation that went unreported to police for years, even though several other coaches knew about it and informed superiors. The inaction cost longtime head football coach Joe Paterno and the university president their jobs.

Vargas, who is running for Congress, said simply telling a boss about child abuse is not enough, such crimes need to be reported to police.

“I want coaches to be on notice that we can go after them,” Vargas said.

He said current state law lists a number of occupations on college and university campuses in which employees are required to report molestations to law enforcement, but coaches are not among them.

Officials at San Diego’s two universities that play Division 1 sports, San Diego State and the University of San Diego, told City News Service last week that their coaches are required to report such acts.

Vargas said that could be a matter of school policy, but it’s not written into the law. The measure, which he plans to introduce in January, would cover both public and private institutions but would not involve high school athletics, where child abuse reporting rules are clear, he said.

Vargas said the grand jury transcript of the Jerry Sandusky case involving Penn State was “sickening” and his denial of the allegations in an interview “the most outrageous thing I ever heard.”

His bill would also double the possible jail sentence and increase fines for people who are required to report instances of child abuse to law enforcement but don’t. However, he said he doubts whether the tougher penalties will pass the Legislature.