Pa. continues strengthening laws to protect children

    Pennsylvania soon will have a new definition of child abuse that’s more specific and more comprehensive, as well as new tools for flagging abusers.

    Ten new laws meant to make the commonwealth safer for children all came in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse case.

    But Bucks County District Attorney Dave Heckler, who chaired a panel to scour the state’s child protection laws for problems, said there are more to come.

    “Some of these bills have done some of the most important things, but there is a host of other work yet to be done,” Heckler said. “And it’s my understanding that closure, aside from a few issues, has pretty well been reached, so they should be flowing to the governor within the next months, certainly.”

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    One of those bills has great relevance to the Sandusky case; it would clarify who must report suspected child abuse and how it must be reported. That was a key question in the furor over the behavior of the late Penn State coach Joe Paterno and former university president Graham Spanier following the first allegations against Sandusky.

    Child welfare advocates, who are watching the bill closely, said it has stalled recently in the Legislature.

    The raft of proposals already signed into law by the governor will become effective in 2015.

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