WASHINGTON, D.C. RECENTLY, U.S. Representative George Miller of California asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate how youth athletics, including swimming, handles child abuse allegations.
Last year, stemming from the Penn State child sexual abuse scandal, Miller asked the GAO to look into expanding child abuse reporting laws to also include athletics as well as other extracurricular activities.
According to ChildWelfare.gov, there are “approximately 48 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands designate professions whose members are mandated by law to report child maltreatment.”
These mandatory reporters include social workers; teachers, principals, and other school personnel; physicians, nurses, and other health-care workers; counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals; child care providers; medical examiners or coroners as well as law enforcement officers.
Also, as of the August 2012 printing of the Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect white sheet published by ChildWelfare.gov, only “four states now have designated as mandatory reporters … athletics staff … at institutions of higher learning, including public and private colleges and universities and vocational and technical schools.”
Additionally, 11 states require that “directors, employees, and volunteers at entities that provide organized activities for children, such as camps, day camps, youth centers, and recreation centers, are required to report.”
The push from Miller is to expand these laws throughout the entire country to require mandatory reporting throughout the nation.
“Recent reports about the abuse of student athletes participating in public and private swim clubs have raised a number of new concerns about whether we have adequate laws and policies in place to prevent and address such abuse,” wrote Miller. “Accordingly, I write today to supplement my July 2012 request to include information about the prevalence of abuse among student athletes and the manner in which such abuse cases are reported, investigated and resolved.”
In response to Miller's interest in putting more teeth into mandatory reporting laws, USA Swimming looks like it would welcome some more ammunition to make it easier to catch predators.
Susan Woessner, the director of USA Swimming's safe sport program, released the following statement to Swimming World when asked about Miller's interest in policing the sport.
“While USA Swimming has not heard from representative Miller, we would welcome the opportunity to speak with him about the USA Swimming Safe Sport program and our process. This is an important issue to our organization and we appreciate Rep. Miller's willingness to look into such an important topic. Since its inception in 2010, our Safe Sport program has grown to include policies & guidelines for our members; screening & selection of coaches; training & education for coaches, swimmers and parents; and recognizing, responding & reporting abuse. We look forward to a dialogue with Rep. Miller and will be proactively reaching out to him this week.”