The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

New bill aims to protect victims

All Wisconsin school employees will now be required to report child neglect and abuse, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation known as “Maddie’s Bill” into law last Wednesday.

The law, introduced by state Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine), is in response to a Racine public school case in which a speech-impaired 9-year-old girl was assaulted. The law was promoted by the child’s mother and is designed to protect children from inappropriate circumstances.

Penalties for not reporting abuse can include six months in prison and/or $1,000 in fines. The law extends mandatory reporting to include not just school administrators and teachers but assistants and support staff as well.

Ellen Eckman, associate professor and chair of educational policy and leadership, said in-school reporting has drastically changed over the last few years.

“With mandatory reporting, someone is designated on the staff (to act as a liaison between students, families and faculty),” she said. “That person was usually a social worker who was trained in the field.”

Eckman said she cannot imagine any adult ignoring child abuse, but mandatory reporting will achieve its goal of protecting children.

The law prevents employees from being fired for reporting neglect or abuse and mandates schools train new employees to recognize inappropriate actions against children.

Besides educating faculty on reporting in-school abuse, Eckman said schools should inform children regarding the availability of guidance and help.

“It is all age-dependent,” she said. “For younger children, administrators may offer help resources through posters or announcements, but for older children, guidance counseling is most common.”

Besides this legislation, Walker signed other bills increasing ramifications for teachers viewing pornography on school computers and allowing judges to increase sentencing for childcare providers accused of sexually abusing children, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Margaret Bloom, a professor of counselor education and counselor psychology at Marquette, said Walker’s legislation will benefit children.

“This is good legislation that puts into regulation practices that many schools already maintain by employee policy,” Bloom said in an email. “Many children who are abused have no one to turn to in their families for help.”

Although the law aims to protect minors, some students, like Sam Hartman, a junior in the College of Education, foresee friction the legislation may create between parents and teachers who report abuse.

“Parents could be under the impression that teachers are invading their personal lives and what happens in their family,” Hartman said. “Parents may feel these teachers are overstepping the boundaries of their job.”

Eckman echoed Hartman’s statement in confronting these relations.

“It has always been a difficult issue,” she said. “But as a society, we have established that it is important to protect children.”

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