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“We are stunned here,” LAPD Detective Gus Villanueva tells The Daily Beast in the wake of the latest arrest. “We are dumbfounded. It [child sexual abuse] just doesn’t stop.”

In my very first diary ever written here entitled STOP!  NO MORE!! NEVER AGAIN!!!, I reported on a case out of California involving a teacher, Mark Berendt:

Mark Berndt, 61, was arrested at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance on Monday, accused of abusing nearly two dozen boys and girls, ages six to 10, between 2008 and 2011, officials with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Investigators have discovered a total of 390 photos in the case, and about 10 of the children depicted in the photos have not been identified, the Sheriff's Department said.

Berndt was formally charged on Monday with 23 counts of lewd acts upon on child, court records show, and was being held in jail in lieu of $2.3 million bail. He could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted on all counts.


In Miramonte: Blame the Victim, I told you about the Principal of that school, Ms. Linda Crowder, Blamed the young children for their abuse.  An excerpt:  
As I reflect on the disturbing occurrences at Miramonte, I am more confused over the fact that the children did not report. How is it that the children did not believe that what the teacher was doing to them was wrong? How could being blindfolded, placed in a closet, and having cockroaches placed on them not be wrong?
Well, it appears that was just the Tip of the Iceberg
The travails of the Los Angeles school district have become a Pandora’s box that can’t be shut. Dozens of lawsuits, involving more than 225 parents and students, have been filed in recent years. Most of them have been centered around Berndt, who was arrested last year after he allegedly made his young charges pose for photographs in which they were blindfolded, bound, and sometimes gagged.

Within a few days of Berndt’s arrest, another teacher at Miramonte, Martin Springer, was charged with three counts of lewd acts upon a child over a three-month period in 2009. He pleaded not guilty, and the case is still pending.

In 2005 Ricardo Guevara, a teacher’s aide at Miramonte, was convicted of lewd acts with three girls. He was caught putting his hand into the pants of one girl in the courtyard of the campus—but only after three earlier sets of complaints against him by students were discounted by school officials. The district shelled out $1.6 million to the families of the three female victims in 2009.

In another case, Stephen Rooney, a teacher and administrator at Foshay Learning Center, was transferred to another school even though it was discovered that he was accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. He was eventually charged and sentenced to eight years in prison for molesting three teenage girls and a minor, including the student at Foshay, in 2008.

Last December a jury ordered the district to pay a 10-year-old boy who was repeatedly molested by Forrest Stobbe, a LAUSD elementary-school teacher, $6.9 million. It was one of the largest payouts in the history of the Los Angeles school system.

In many of these cases, it was reported several times to school authorities but nothing was done.  "Attorney Luis Carrillo, who is representing the families of four of the most recent alleged victims, contends that the L.A. school district was negligent in not taking action sooner against Pimentel. Carrillo references the 2008 complaint, in which two different parents allegedly contacted Principal Hinojosa four years ago with concerns of inappropriate touching, but were apparently ignored.

It seems, according to Carrillo, that she “paid no attention to the complaints of the parents,” he said. “It shows a lack of sensitivity and compassion.”

And in a case involving an Olympic swim coach in Maryland - Rick Curl plead guilty to childhood sexual abuse today,

Attorney's for the woman released the following statement:

"Ms. Currin is pleased that justice is going to be carried out against Mr. Curl but there remains unfinished business. We hope that a similar fate is in store for those at USA Swimming who covered up for him over a period of literally decades. The current Vice President of USA Swimming has admitted in writing that knowledge about Mr. Curl "banging his swimmers has gone back to as early as the late 1980's. An untold number of childhood sexual abuse has occurred due to the callous inaction of those who knew about Mr. Curl's sexual predilections and did absolutely nothing about it. We urge the authorities, as they did with Penn State, to now look into possible criminal conduct that has occurred within USA Swimming."

Perhaps other states should follow Pennsylvania's model -

In response to the Jerry Sandusky and Philadelphia archdiocese scandals, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania pulled together a task force to thoroughly review state laws and procedures governing child protection and the reporting of child abuse.

The task force has recommended expanding the definition of those who are required to report suspected child abuse. And it's very important to understand that as this body goes forward, to get the message out that anybody can report child abuse -- anybody can report child abuse.
Follow me below the jump for more information on their findings and recommendations

Pennsylvania Makes Changes


Created by the general assembly, the task force was asked to:

◦Examine and analyze the practices, processes and procedures relating to the response to child abuse.
◦Review and analyze law, procedures, practices and rules relating to the reporting of child abuse.
◦Hold public hearings, accept and review written comments from individuals and organizations.
◦Submit reports which will include recommendations to improve the reporting of child abuse; implement any necessary changes in state laws and practices, policies and procedures relating to child abuse; and train appropriate individuals in the reporting of child abuse.

They released their report on November 27, 2012 and testified at the:

JOINT HEARING OF THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE AND CHILDREN AND YOUTH COMMITTEE - January 22, 2013


"Although there are some individuals in Pennsylvania whose professional responsibilities are to ensure the health and the well-being and the safety of children and they are mandated reporters, every citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can report any suspicion or concern they have about child abuse simply by calling ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313" ~ Dr. Cindy W. Christian, Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection

"If an individual believes that a child is being abused, until we can get some implemented changes to have consistency between the Child Protective Services Law and our Crimes Code, I would ask that they also reach out and contact their local police department to report those concerns, because many times cases that are referred to Children and Youth under the current law would not go to the police for further investigation. They would simply be handled as a civil investigation.  So we need to make sure that our children are being protected by law enforcement to the extent that we can as well as Children, Youth and Family Services" ~Jackie Bernard, ESQ. Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection
3

House Bill 404 PA


Based on recommendations from the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives have voted unaimously to approve House Bill 404

An Act
Amending TITLE 18 (Crimes and Offenses) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in falsification and intimidation, providing for the offense of intimidation or retaliation in child abuse cases.

This bill has received bi-partisan support and is now headed for the Pennsylvania Senate for a vote.  My brief summary of the amendments follow:

Intimidation


Under intimidation, a person commits an offense if:
1. The person has knowledge or does something that will obstruct, impede, impair, prevent or interfere with the making of a child abuse report

2. The person intimidates or attempts to intimidate any reporter, victim or witness from making a report, causes them to withhold information or give fale information, elude or evade the legal process, or causes the person to fail to appear at an investigation.

Retaliation


Under retaliation, a person commits an offense if the person harms another person by any unlawful act or commits acts which threaten another person with retaliation should they report suspected child abuse.

Definitions


Interestingly, under defintions, the new language defining child abuse strikes a previous "within two years of the date of the report to the department or county agency" seemingly lifting the statute of limitations of reporting child abuse.  It also adds Mandated Report, Reporter, Witness and Victim definitions.
State Rep. Mark Rozzi, D-Reading, is also a supporter of the bill but for much more personal reasons. Rozzi said he was abused when he was 13 years old by a priest.

He and a friend both suffered the abuse silently together when his friend eventually committed suicide, Rozzi said. Rozzi now strives to push for major legislation changes to help combat child sexual abuse and allow those who have been abused to come forward.

“I think it'll give somebody with the knowledge of child abuse the power to come forward knowing they can't be retaliated against,” Rozzi said. “I truly believe there's only one answer to dig at the root of child abuse and that's to open up the two year window [on the statute of limitations] to give all victims a chance to have their voices heard.”

The task force testified before the Pennsylvania House in January, a transcript of which is located here.  Some excerpts follow:
We've expanded that definition [of mandatory reporters] to include:
• Colleges, employees of colleges or universities.
• Coaches, those that are entrusted to work with children in athletic systems.
• Attorneys, and there is a caveat to that: unless you are receiving privileged
information.
• Librarians. We heard testimony about children coming into a library, and there are people there, they are in trusting situations andlearn of situations of child abuse, but they are not required to report currently.
• Persons working or volunteering in programs.
• The commercial film industry.
• Computer-repair individuals.
Pennsylvania looks great in the numbers [for reported child abuse]. When I was first appointed to the task force, I looked at the numbers for Pennsylvania and we looked wonderful. I was like, wow, we're really low in our numbers. And then it became evident that one of the reasons why we're so low in those numbers is those numbers only account for the work that is done by Children, Youth and Family Services, not by law enforcement. And those numbers only account for those cases where the children were specifically indicated on an abuse for a named perpetrator.
Right now, we have two laws.

We have a CPS law and we have a general protective services law. In the CPSL, cases get reported to ChildLine or a county; they get numbered; they get investigated. And then after they're investigated, if they are indicated or founded by a Judge, then they go on a registry somewhere. If they are not indicated, then they get expunged and they go away forever. So that 6 months down -- or no, no, 2 years down the line,
if another report comes in, nobody knows that there was a CPS investigation in the past.

On the GPS side, in the GPS law, those cases get reported often to the county, sometimes through ChildLine, but they don't get numbered. There's no statistical
recognition of them in our child abuse reports, in our State reports. And the county knows about them, but no other county knows about them. The State doesn't know
about them. And some of the fatalities we see, and I've reviewed plenty where there has been a CPS report, a CPS report, 12 GPS reports, another CPS report, a GPS, 4 more GPS reports, and then a death, but nobody is looking at everything.

Originally posted to Roxine on Thu Feb 21, 2013 at 09:14 AM PST.

Also republished by TreeClimbers and House of LIGHTS.

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