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7/3/2012 2:55:41 PM
Mike Smith--HSLDA and Roy Hanson--FPM
California: SB 1551 Defeated! A Great Victory for all Parents!

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From the HSLDA E-lert Service...
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California: SB 1551 Defeated! A Great Victory for all Parents!

From: Mike Smith--HSLDA and Roy Hanson--Family Protection Ministries

Bill: SB 1551 - Universal Mandated Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse

DEFEATED - A Tremendous Victory for All Adults and Parents!

We Strongly Opposed!

Status: SB 1551 Died in the Senate.

SB 1551 would have required all adults, most of whom do not understand
the complex definitions of sexual abuse in California law, to report
any "reasonably suspected" child sexual abuse, even when based upon
rumor alone. Under the proposed SB 1551, failure to report would be
punishable by imprisonment and fines. Current law requires certain
classes of persons to report under penalty of law while it encourages
(but does not require) everyone to report suspected child abuse of any
kind.

SB 1551 would have resulted in thousands, if not hundreds of
thousands, of untrained, ordinary, everyday people to report somebody
for child sexual abuse based on "hearsay" alone. "Hearsay," according
to Black's Law Dictionary, relies on something that an individual does
not know personally, but only on what that individual has heard others
say. It is impossible in most circumstances to determine the
credibility of "hearsay" by itself as evidence of wrongdoing.

We strongly agreed with the author's desire to protect children who
are sexually abused. Known child sexual abuse is a hideous and
perverse crime that needs to be reported! We favor cracking down on
known child sexual abusers.

However, SB 1551 would have created the potential of runaway unfounded
reporting of alleged sexual abuse by creating a new crime that would
have required all adults to report any "reasonable suspicion"
(including those based upon only rumors) of child sexual abuse.

SB 1551 Was Very Dangerous to the Lives and Freedoms of Everyone

First, suppose after hearing a rumor of child sexual abuse, you choose
not to report to authorities the rumored suspected sexual child abuse.
In your judgment the rumor lacked credibility, or was vague, and was
not child sexual abuse; you did not witness any abuse nor do you know
of anyone who did. And suppose at the same time and unknown to you,
another person heard the same rumor and did decide to report it.
Under this scenario, you could be blindsided with an investigation,
tried, and possibly convicted for failure to report the "rumor"
because it was "third-hand hearsay" as described in the SB 1551.

Second, SB 1551's emphasis on "hearsay" alone as sufficient evidence
would likely have resulted in a large number of innocent California
families (maybe you and your family) having to endure the trauma, the
stigma, and the legal and financial burden of an investigation of
alleged child abuse, even if the reports on these families were
ultimately determined to be completely "unfounded."

Already, under California's current law, over 75% of the over 200,000
reports of child abuse per year fail to be substantiated as child
abuse. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Child
Abuse and Neglect Data System, Child Maltreatment Report for 2010).
If this bill had not been stopped, these numbers would have
significantly increased.

We ought not to forget that an essential element of Hitler and his
socialist Nazi Party's rise to power over Germany was to make every
one legally responsible for "reporting" their neighbors, family, and
anyone to the authorities based upon suspicion and rumor alone.
People were driven to err on the side of reporting out of fear of
being prosecuted for failure to report. It is a terrible kind of
world to live in when you are "looking over your shoulder all the
time" - never knowing whether your neighbor, associate, or extended
family member is going to falsely report you.

The end never justifies the means! The means must be justified by
itself. God is concerned as much with the means as He is with the
ends.

FPM worked long hours, behind the scenes to defeat this dangerous
bill. The work FPM did on this bill included researching, formulating
technical wording for detailed arguments against it, and communicating
with various legislators and organizations. HSLDA is blessed to be
able to provide legal counsel and other help from HSLDA's Mike Smith
to help our friends understand and respond correctly to legislation
like this.
The defeat of SB 1551 is a great victory for all parents and their
children and for the U.S. constitutional rule of law.

Additional Background of SB 1551

SB 1551 would have effectively required second hand and third hand
multiple sources of "hearsay" to be used as a stand-alone basis of
reasonable suspicion for the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse
by untrained persons. For example, the proposed SB 1551 stated:

(a) A person who fails to report when the unreported information or
evidence would cause a reasonable suspicion of child sexual abuse, for
instance receipt of multiple sources of third-hand information, is
guilty of negligent failure to report, a misdemeanor punishable by up
to six months in county jail, a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000),
or by both that fine and imprisonment. (page 2, lines 24-29; emphasis
added)

This language allowed for the situation where one soccer parent
observes the coach pat a child on the rear during a game and relates
the incident to another parent, expressing questions about whether the
touch was sexually motivated. Soon another parent is brought into the
conversation that in turn passes the thoughts to other parents.
Ultimately, another parent, not privy to the initial conversation, has
heard multiple sources of third hand information and must report under
the proposed language. Thus, "gossip" would have become the basis for
a report -- not the already low reasonable suspicion standard that
current mandated reporters are given training to understand.

Not only is the above scenario realistic, a further egregious
potential exists. Say the parent who ultimately hears the "buzz"
relates the story to a trusted co-worker. The co-worker expresses
serious reservation of making an accusation based on third-hand,
hearsay-based information. Instead of reporting as would have been
mandated by SB 1551, the parent is persuaded by his co-worker to
exercise restraint. Under SB 1551, the co-worker would have been
subject to up to ten years in prison for influencing the parent to not
report. (page 3, lines 13-19)


SB 1551 was unnecessary because current law (Penal Code's Child Abuse
and Neglect Reporting Act - CANRA) specifies that any adult who is not
a mandated reporter (P.C. Section 11165.7) "may report" a known, or
reasonably suspected, incident of any child abuse or neglect.
SB 1551 would have inappropriately imposed this reporting requirement
on every adult in California. There is no type or amount of training
that could be expected to provide the understanding necessary to
implement this proposed requirement in the course of his or her daily
life. California is populated with individuals of diverse backgrounds
- linguistically, educationally, economically, culturally, etc.
Additionally, California's population is very transient, especially
with new individuals regularly entering the state. First, there are
no media through which to effectively educate everyone in California
in the details of their responsibilities under this proposed law.
Second, there can be no expectation that any instruction provided
would be understood or implemented as expected. This is in contrast
to the information and training given to mandated reporters concerning
their responsibilities in the course of their employment (P.C.
Sections 11165.7 & 11166.5).

SB 1551 would have also unfairly placed upon the general public, the
risk of arrest and punishment for not reporting. This would have
involved many good innocent people forced to endure a traumatic,
expensive, time-consuming trial and possible fine and imprisonment.

SB 1551 also inappropriately assumed that every legal category of
"sexual abuse" could be both understood and recognized by every adult
in California. The term "sexual abuse" has a complex, legal
definition in the Penal Code (Section 11165.1), with multiple
references to other sections in the Code.

SB 1551 would have caused a large increase in the number of false
reports made by the public. SB 1551 would have made the failure to
report child sexual abuse punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine.
Motivated by a fear of being imprisoned and/or being fined, combined
with a lack of a detailed understanding about what to report (i.e.,
not understanding what "sexual abuse" includes, and not understanding
what "reasonable suspicion" is) would have resulted in an unnecessary
and significantly large increase in reports to peace officers and
child protective services. The large percentage of false reports of
child abuse would have gone much higher than the current rate of over
75% -- a terrible waste of limited resources, damaging many innocent
lives.

SB 1551 would have increased the likelihood that children already in
danger of abuse would not get the quality of help they need. The
increased workload would have directed a significant amount of peace
officers' and CPS workers' time and energy away from working on cases
based on credible reports of serious abuse or neglect. Resources to
protect these children would have been tragically taken from those
known abused children.

SB 1551 would have also adversely affected many innocent individuals
and families. Many innocent families and individuals would have been
falsely accused of child sexual abuse and forced to endure the
hardship, stigma and the legal and financial burdens of an
investigation, which would result from an unnecessary increase of
reports, a large number of which would ultimately be unfounded. When
innocent parents are traumatized and damaged, their children suffer
too.

We thank God for this wonderful victory!


No action is required on SB 1551.

We greatly value you and your support--it is a privilege to serve you!
If you or someone you know is not a member of HSLDA, will you consider
taking a moment today to join or recommend us and support our work
defending individual families threatened by government officials and
protecting homeschooling freedom for all? Join now >>
http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?id=14438

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It's a good deal for families with more than 10 years of
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