Governor Andrew Cuomo could decide this week whether to sign or veto legislation that would require private schools to report suspected child abuse.
The New York State Senate and Assembly both passed bills this year that would close the existing loophole in the law. Currently, only public schools are required to report alleged abuse to law enforcement.
Federal law for mandated reporting applies to both public and private schools, but it only pertains to suspected abuse committed by parents and guardians, not teachers and other school employees.
Deb Rosen, executive director at Bivona Child Advocacy Center in Rochester, says while expansion of the law would be a good thing, limits on mandated reporting are not the chief concern for advocates of abuse survivors.
"So, on the one hand,” she explained, “without mandated reporting laws we would be seeing a real closure of the pipeline of intervention, but mandated reporting laws are probably still not doing enough to keep children safe."
The biggest barrier to helping victims of child abuse, Rosen says, is the fear people have of incorrectly reporting suspected abuse and damaging someone's reputation.
"It's a very understandable fear,” she said. “What we are really encouraging people to do is to prioritize the concern for the child and to be more concerned about being right than they are about being wrong, because if they're right, what they're doing is putting in place an intervention that will keep a child safe."
According to Rosen, 7.2 million reports of child abuse were made across the U.S. in 2016, but both physical and sexual child abuse is grossly underreported.