Date:  
From:  
Subject:  
5/11/01 2:38:46 PM
Scott A. Woodruff, Esq., Staff Attorney of HSLDA
Maine--BILL WOULD SET $500 FINE FOR FAILURE TO REPORT NEGLECT

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From the HSLDA@Capitol Hill E-lert Service...
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May 11, 2001

BILL WOULD SET $500 FINE FOR FAILURE TO REPORT NEGLECT

Dear Maine Members and Friends,

On April 23, the Maine Legislature's Judiciary Committee voted "ought
to pass" on Legislative Directive 1066, a bill that would make nearly
every citizen subject to a fine of $500 for failure to report
suspected neglect of children or adults to government officials.

ACTION REQUESTED

Please write your representative and senator this weekend and ask
them to oppose L.D. 1066 and briefly explain your reasons (see list
of reasons below). Since your legislators may not know about this new
bill yet, briefly explain what it is about. Be courteous, persuasive,
and logical. Since this issue affects all parents, not just those who
home school, it is not necessary to identify yourself as a home
schooler. Check our "Legislative Toolbox" for help identifying and
contacting your state senator and representative at
http://www.hslda.org/toolbox/

STATUS

Although the committee has voted in favor of L.D. 1066, the bill has
not officially been "reported out" of committee yet. We expect this
to happen shortly. It could then be scheduled for a vote on short
notice in either house.

ANALYSIS

L.D. 1066 contains two sections. Section 1 relates to adult neglect,
and section 2 relates to child neglect. Section 2 states in part:

"The following adult persons shall immediately report or cause a
report to be made to the department when the person knows or has
reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be
abused or neglected: . . .

"B. Any other person [aside from specified professionals] who has
assumed full, intermittent or occasional responsibility for the care
or custody of the child, whether or not the person receives
compensation."

Section 1 is nearly identical to section 2, except it mandates
reporting of adult abuse. (Read the full language of the bill at
http://janus.state.me.us/legis/bills/billtexts/LD106601-1.asp.)

This language even mandates reporting of neglect that has not
happened yet! The language is so broad that virtually anyone who is
ever around any child for any period of time under any circumstances
is threatened with a fine if he or she does not report suspected
neglect. This would include:

1) A mother, if a neighbor child comes over to play;
2) A mother or father who invites a neighbor child over for dinner or
for a birthday party;
3) A father who takes his children and his children's friend to a
movie;
4) A mother in law who comes over to watch her grandchildren for a
few minutes;
5) A Sunday school teacher in a church;
6) Volunteer helpers in Boy Scouts or any other youth organization;
7) A mother who teaches a co-op home school class; and
8) A volunteer working with children in any local support group
activity.

HSLDA'S REASONS FOR OPPOSING L.D. 1066

HSLDA believes that child abuse is a CRIME, not a sickness. The best
way to protect innocent children from child abuse is to investigate,
prosecute, and punish real child abuse and criminal neglect.
Unfortunately, Maine's child protective services system is already
overwhelmed by the legal requirement that every allegation of child
abuse or neglect be investigated, no matter how trivial or incredible
that allegation may be. L.D. 1066 will substantially increase the
number of unfounded abuse and neglect reports that MUST be
investigated while decreasing the proportion of serious cases that
SHOULD be investigated. This is a lose-lose-lose scenario: it is bad
for innocent children who really are being abused; it is bad for
innocent parents who are not abusers; and it is bad for the
overworked social workers who have to investigate an ever-larger
number of reports.

1. Already, at least two thirds of all neglect and abuse reports
nationally are unfounded. L.D. 1066 would lead to more. There are a
handful of cases in which everyone would agree there was abuse or
neglect. But in most cases, defining abuse or neglect is a matter of
subjective opinion. Professionals who are mandatory reporters of
child abuse usually receive specialized training to help guide their
judgment. Demanding that thousands of untrained citizens evaluate
possible neglect/abuse situations is asking for a big increase in
false reports.

2. What if a law were passed compelling every citizen to report every
suspected crime-write down the license plate of every potentially
speeding car, get the name of everyone who might have dropped a piece
of trash on the sidewalk, and send in the address of every person who
may have violated one of thousands of city ordinances? We would be
outraged. As free citizens we have the right to decide for ourselves
when to report a suspected misdeed, and to whom. Such reporting can
have far-reaching consequences. The government must not supplant a
citizen's personal choice with its own impersonal mandate. We have
the right to live as if we are not agents for government law
enforcement. We have the right to NOT work for the government. L.D.
1066 violates that right.

3. The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of speech and the right
of free association. This bill threatens both of these fundamental
freedoms. It creates a society of tattletales. It would breed an
atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust within what ought to be our most
trusting and intimate relations-- churches, neighborhoods, support
groups and families. It would make your closest friend or loved one a
potential informant. Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia operated
extensive programs to motivate citizens to tell on each other for
acts of perceived disloyalty. L.D. 1066 follows that pattern much too
closely. Maine should avoid a police state mentality.

4. This bill would increase the number of innocent families who
undergo investigations based on erroneous reports. That would be bad
enough if every investigation led to accurate results, because even
an "unfounded" report is terribly traumatic to the family who is
accused of abuse. Unfortunately, not every investigation leads to
accurate results. Quite the contrary: bureaucracies are notorious for
making mistakes. More reports means more parents will erroneously be
labeled as child abusers, and more children end up in a dangerous
foster care system. As recent events tragically teach us, some
children are treated terribly in the foster care system.

CONCLUSION

This bill can be stopped. Now is the time to act to preserve our
freedoms. Please write a letter this weekend and check your e-mail
frequently for updates. Thank you for standing with us for families
and freedom.

Sincerely yours

Scott A. Woodruff, Esq.

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Home School Legal Defense Association
P.O. Box 3000
Purcellville, Virginia 20134
540-338-5600
www.hslda.org
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 Other Resources

More information on Maine's L.D. 1066