South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Fontana to prod senate on child protection bill


Outraged by news accounts of another local child being severely beaten by school personnel last week, state Sen. Wayne D. Fontana said he will step up efforts to win passage of his bill aimed at protecting children from abuse by teachers or other school employees.

“We cannot tolerate situations where school personnel beat children, and then hide behind an antiquated state law that holds them to a different standard than other child abusers,” Sen. Fontana said. “Enough is enough.”

He was outraged by a local television station's report on the injuries a 16-year-old girl suffered at the hands of a school's supposedly well-trained behavioral specialists. The girl's face was battered and bloodied, her back was badly bruised, and ligaments were torn in her ankles. The child also claimed that staff choked her while they were subduing her.

Making matters worse, school personnel allegedly made the girl finish the school day before her family was able to take her to an emergency room.

The Fontana bill (Senate Bill 886) would require reporting and investigating any abuse against a student by a school employee, regardless of who makes the report. Currently, reporting and investigation is only required if the abuse rises to the level of a serious bodily injury, and if the report is made by law enforcement or a county welfare official.

Sen. Fontana said the current law holds teachers and school personnel to a lesser standard than everyone else in our society.

The Senate Committee on Aging and Youth approved the Fontana bill in May. It is currently being considered in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Even though there are only a few days left in the legislative session, I will fight hard to get this bill to the full Senate for a vote,” Sen. Fontana said.

Another local incident, which prompted the senator to introduce the bill, occurred last year when a boy was taken to the emergency room with open and bleeding brush burns, choke marks around his neck, and broken blood vessels in his face, all caused by a teacher who claimed that he was simply restraining the boy.

When three different people (the emergency room doctor, the parent, and the social service agency care worker assigned to the boy) reported the incident to the Department of Health and Welfare's “Childline” hotline, they were told that existing state law prevented investigation because the abuse did not rise to the level of a serious bodily injury and because the report had not come through a law enforcement or county welfare official.


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