Senate Hears Testimony on Bill to Expand Child Abuse Reporting

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JEFFERSON CITY - In a hearing Monday, Missouri state senators heard public testimony on a bill that would make it illegal for a regular citizen to witness child sexual abuse and not report it.

Missouri's current child abuse law hasn't been modified since 1975. It states that only teachers, nurses, members of the clergy and a few other professions are legally obligated to report child abuse.

Senate bill 457 would make failing to report child sex abuse would be a class A misdemeanor with a punishment of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, said the measure is about protecting kids.

"It's about bringing to prosecution the people who are sexually abusing those kids. So if this is a way, a focused way, of bringing those folks to justice, I think we ought to do it."

Should the bill pass, Missouri would join the 18 other states that require child abuse reporting by any individual.

The Senate committee did not hear from any members of the public who were against the bill. A vote was not taken and has yet to be scheduled.