In recent months, we’ve seen several stories in the news about horrific crimes committed against Hoosier children.
Some of our most vulnerable citizens have been victims of abuse or neglect at the hands of those entrusted to care for them at daycares and schools. Where parents should have peace of mind knowing their children are in safe hands, children have been put in harm’s way, leading to injury and even death.
This legislative session, I supported three measures in the Indiana General Assembly to address these concerns. These bills help protect our children and strengthen punishment for those convicted of child exploitation.
Senate Enrolled Act 357 creates a public, searchable database of individuals convicted of child abuse. This database will be available by July 2017 and will serve as a great tool for parents as they select a childcare provider.
SEA 357 was introduced in response to the tragic death of 19-month-old toddler Kirk Coleman in New Paris. The toddler died from blunt force trauma while under the care of a babysitter. It was later revealed to the family that the toddler’s babysitter had previously been convicted of neglect of a dependent. The babysitter was also charged with battery in that previous case, but the charge was later dropped as part of a plea bargain.
It’s my hope that SEA 357 will help prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future by equipping parents to more easily gather crucial information when seeking a child-care provider.
The General Assembly also passed House Enrolled Act 1005 which expands background checks to include substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect for employees who work directly with students at public, charter and nonpublic schools.
Earlier this year, a basketball coach at a private school in Indianapolis was accused of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old student. There was concern that the school did not report the allegations to local officials in a timely manner, and that a confidentiality agreement could allow the coach to secure employment with another school without disclosing the alleged sexual misconduct. HEA 1005 will help ensure that individuals working with our children are thoroughly vetted and loopholes that allow predators to continue to seek employment at our schools are eliminated.
Lawmakers also toughened penalties for those convicted of exploiting children.
Senate Enrolled Act 14 strengthens the felony level for certain cases of child exploitation from a Level 5 to a Level 4 felony. The legislation also increases the felony level for the worst cases of possession of child pornography from a Level 6 to a Level 5 felony. It is important to ensure those who commit these horrific crimes against innocent children face tough penalties for their actions.
After passing the General Assembly, all of these pieces of legislation have now been signed into law by the Governor. I was proud to support these strong measures and will continue to fight for the safety and security of Hoosier families.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas on these and other issues. My office can be reached at 800-382-9467 or by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov.
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