What Are Missourians Required to Do When Faced With Jerry Sandusky-Style "Horseplay"?

Nov 16, 2011 at 8:00 am

Say Mike McQueary had stumbled on Jerry Sandusky engaging in "horseplay" (as Sandusky described it to Bob Costas on Monday night) with a ten-year-old boy in a shower in Columbia instead of State College. Forget questions of moral obligation versus moral cowardice. Would our hypothetical Missouri McQueary have been required, by state law, to report what he saw to the police instead of Joe Paterno?

Technically -- and astoundingly -- the answer is no, since he's not a teacher, a physician, a childcare professional or a member of the clergy. As the Missouri state law stands now, these are the only people required to report child sexual abuse to the authorities.

That may change though, if Missouri attorney general Chris Koster gets his way. Yesterday Koster asked the Missouri General Assembly to consider making it a legal requirement for any citizen who witnesses a child being abused or neglected to report the incident to the cops.

Currently, eighteen states have similar laws on the books. Pennsylvania, you may be unsurprised to learn, is not among them.

"The recent incidents at Penn State highlight the disparities across the country in the manner in which state laws handle reporting sexual abuse of children," Koster said in a statement yesterday.

"If a citizen walks in on the sexual abuse of a child, his duty as a citizen should be clear. We are all mandatory reporters. When it comes to protecting children, passing the buck should not be an option in our state."

It remains to be seen whether legislators agree.