Child abuse reporting laws stricter in Texas

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GRAYSON COUNTY, TX - Joe Paterno has come under serious fire for only reporting to university officials that Jerry Sandusky may have abused a boy at Penn State. But according to Pennsylvania state law, Paterno met his legal requirement. If the exact same case happened in Texas, he would be facing criminal charges, because the law is much more strict.

"I hope that if it had happened here, that it would have been handled differently," said Grayson County District Attorney Joe Brown.

Brown said the law is much tougher in Texas than it is in Pennsylvania when it comes to reporting suspected child abuse. "Texas is different than Pennsylvania. We have a requirement that anyone who has reason to believe that a child's been abused has to report either to CPS or local law enforcement. You don't get to just report it to your superior."

Martha Nuckols, Executive Director of the Grayson County Child Advocacy Center said, "you're required to report any abuse that you suspect. You don't have to prove that it happened, but if you suspect it's happening then you're required to report it."

And you have to report it immediately. Professionals who work with children like teachers or doctors have 48 hours to notify the proper authorities, and there is one caveat. Brown said, "professionals can't delegate that to somebody on their staff. They have to personally make that report to CPS or law enforcement." And if you fail to abide by the reporting law in Texas, "it's a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a two thousand dollar fine. So there is some teeth behind it."

Nuckols said paying attention and acting quickly can be vital. "If they see one thing that they think is just not quite right then it needs to be looked into because they could be saving the life of a child by doing that."

As for the state of Oklahoma, the law is very similar. Everyone is required to report to DHS or local law enforcement.

The Grayson County Child Advocacy Center also has a program called "Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse," that can be booked on request. Call (903) 957-0440 for more information.