Local News Spotlight

Sandusky case prompts Kansas regents to mandate clear policies on abuse

After the Penn State allegations, schools are told to draft a system for reporting abuse.

Updated: 2011-12-30T04:56:30Z

By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS

The Kansas City Star

In the wake of child sex crime allegations at Penn State, Kansas regents have demanded that their schools put on paper that reporting of such abuse on campus is mandatory.

Officials at the six universities were ordered this month to have a policy for reporting sexual abuse of a child in place for next year.

“Most Americans think that a thing like this is obvious, but it is our job to make sure that people understand that protection of children is primary,” said Ed McKechnie, the regents chairman who initiated the action after the Penn State allegations broke.

“The morning I read that story in the paper it took my breath away,” McKechnie said. “I couldn’t imagine being the chairman of the Penn State governing board at a time like this.

“You ask, ‘Could something like this ever happen at one of our campuses?’” McKechnie said. “Nothing like this has happened here. But we want to make sure that no one ever believes that their job is more important than the safety and protection of a child. This makes it clear to everyone that it is a priority.”

Each university will develop its own policy, although policy may differ from school to school on for whom the report is prepared and who is responsible for following up.

Before Kansas State University shut down the campus for the holidays, administrators, department heads and campus police met to review their existing policies. Emails on the rules went out to faculty and students, said Pat Bosco, vice president for student life.

“As a K-Stater, I felt proud that we already had a policy in place and that we could act so quickly,” he said.

There is a hierarchy in the reporting, Bosco said, but “we want them to know that the hierarchy is not as important as just reporting it.

“We wanted it to be clear that if you don’t feel comfortable reporting to one person, then report it to another, but we want it reported.”

If, and when, child sexual abuse was reported, and to whom, is central in the Penn State case.

The Board of Trustees there will decide next month how to proceed after the reputation-crushing scandal.

The case, which started with the indictment of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for allegations of sexually assaulting boys on the university campus, has to date resulted in the firing of coach Joe Paterno and perjury charges against Gary Schultz, retired senior vice president of finance, and Tim Curley, former athletic director.

To reach Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to mdwilliams@kcstar.com.

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