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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
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Child Abuse and Mandated Reporting, The Scandal at Penn State University

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Nov 8th 2011

Child Abuse and Mandated Reporting, The Scandal at Penn State UniversityIf it is not bad enough that a former Penn State football defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandursky, stands indicted of committing repeated acts of sexual child abuse against boys as young as ten and eleven years old. What makes the entire scandal even worse is that University officials failed to report the information despite the fact that the law demands that they do so. In the state of Pennsylvania law defines these officials as "mandated reporters," meaning that failure to report is a crime in and of itself. That is why a Grand Jury has indicted them for failure to report.

It is important to be aware that failure to report suspected child abuse is a crime, whether or not you fall under the heading of mandated reporter. The definition of who is defined as a mandated reporter varies from state to state. It should go without saying that there is a moral obligation to report this type abuse to state child protection services. You can do a Google search to find the appropriate phone numbers and information for your state. There is also a national hotline. The phone number is:


An excellent website that you can use is at the following URL:

Another valuable website is:

What stops many people from reporting what they suspect or know to be child neglect, abuse, sexual abuse and abandonment?

The reasons why people fail to report stem from fear of retaliation. The types of retaliation they fear are:.

1. They could lose their job for making the report. Most individuals are unaware of the fact that reporting is anonymous and that the law protects those who do the reporting. In the Penn state case above, the janitors allegedly witnessed the acts of abuse but did not report for fear of losing their jobs.

2. Some people fear being sued by the family if the accusations prove false. Here, too, reporters are both legally protected and remain anonymous.

3. As in the case of Penn State, mandated reporters fear that the consequences of reporting could be the loss of future promotion, inability to renew their contract when it comes due, backlash from very powerful people above them and work place hostility from fellow workers in the aftermath.

Even in the event that any of these things come true, there are many lawyers happy to take cases like this at no charge. The reason simply is that child abuse is so abhorrent and dangerous that most professionals consider an obligation to help.

Consider the consequences of not reporting cases of abuse. As in the Penn State case, pedophiles continue to victimize more children until stopped which is exactly what happened. That means that more children are harmed both physically and emotionally for a long time.

It is not necessary to witness the abuse being committed. Neighbors, friends, family, psychologists, social workers and teachers who are suspicious required to report those cases.

After a report is filed, Child Protective Services conducts an investigation to determine the accuracy of the accusations. If the charges are verified, the children are removed from the home when the abuse is being committed by parents. Parents who are convicted in a court of law can face jail time or the permanent loss of their children. In cases where the abuses are committed by others, as in Penn State, both Child Protective Services and the Police conduct the investigations and, if there is clear evidence, the accused are arrested and face criminal charges.

The stakes are very high in cases of child abuse. Children are vulnerable and need adult protection. That is why parents need to be very informed about where their kids go and with whom. That is also why it is really an obligation to report these things, even when suspicious. As it is often said, "better safe than sorry."

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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