If you witness a child being touched in the state of Florida and don't inform authorities, you now could face jail time.
The "Protection of Vulnerable Persons" Act now makes a third-degree felony of not reporting known instances of child abuse by a non-parent, punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
For Florida colleges, the fine rises to $1 million per instance of an institution knowingly and willfully withholding information on employees with known or suspected illicit contact with a minor.
Introduced as Florida House Bill 1355, the legislation came at the height of the criminal trial against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, charged in June with 45 counts of sexual molestation on underaged boys.
Sandusky's improprieties was deemed common knowledge among many at Penn State for decades, but went unreported for fear of retaliation or damage to the school's storied football program. This new legislation seeks to put an end to the type of silence which delayed Sandusky's prosecution.
"When Florida took a hard look at its laws after news of the Penn State scandal broke, we found some serious loopholes that needed to be fixed," said Rep. Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) upon the signing of the bill in April. "We now have the most comprehensive child abuse reporting law in the nation."
The new law also requires teachers in grades 1 through 12 to undergo training to identify potential victims of abuse and sets aside $1.5 million to help relocate potential victims.
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