Push for legislation closing private school abuse loophole
By CHRIS CAROLA
Jan. 22, 2018
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Private schools in New York should be required to immediately report allegations of staff members sexually abusing students, just as public schools are mandated to do, state lawmakers and a prosecutor said.
Senate Democrats and Erie County District Attorney John Flynn cited a recent report of decades of alleged inappropriate behavior by faculty at one of western New York's most prestigious high schools. They appeared in Albany Monday to support legislation that would require private schools to report child abuse allegations in an educational setting to police.
Current state law requires public school administrators to report a school employee's inappropriate behavior with students to authorities immediately. That law doesn't apply to private schools.
Sen. John Brooks, of Long Island, said his legislation would close that loophole. Among those backing the measure are Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of Yonkers, and Sen. Tim Kennedy, of Buffalo.
Until the loopholes are closed, "we're allowing abusers the opportunity to commit these tragic acts again," Kennedy said.
Buffalo's Nichols School announced this month that an investigation initiated by the private school found that 10 former teachers had improper relationships with students dating back to the 1970s.
School officials said they sought the investigation after a former student reported a yearslong sexual relationship with a teacher in the early 1990s that began when she was 17.
The legislation, sponsored in the Assembly by Fred W. Thiele Jr., of Sag Harbor, would also prohibit private school officials from withholding allegations of abuse from police in exchange for the accused person's resignation.
Officials with the New York State Catholic Conference said the organization's schools already have their own reporting requirements when it comes to allegations of sexual abuse by staff.
"We think that bill is no-brainer and we support it strongly," spokesman Dennis Poust said. "We think to make that a mandate is a wise thing."
Proponents of the private school reporting legislation said the measure goes hand-in-hand with efforts to get the Child Victims Act passed by the Legislature. The legislation, firmly opposed by big institutions such as the Catholic Church, would allow people molested as children to sue those responsible even after the statute of limitations on civil cases has expired.
The measure has been passed by the Democrat-controlled Assembly but hasn't advanced in the Republican-led Senate. It's expected to have more traction in the Legislature this year because of the sexual abuse allegations made against numerous high-profile figures in Hollywood, politics and the media.