Florida’s new child-abuse-reporting law, passed after the Penn State scandal, is being called the nation’s toughest, and its penalties could have wide-ranging consequences for both universities and ordinary citizens, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Colleges and universities that “knowingly and willfully” fail to report suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect — or prevent another person from doing so — now face fines of up to $1 million for each incident. And individuals who fail to report abuse and neglect face felony prosecution and fines up to $5,000.
While previous laws have required reporting only when the suspected abuser was a parent or caretaker, the new statute — which took effect Oct. 1 — applies to any abuser, even those who are children themselves. “It was just very important that we had a consistent law that made Florida the only true mandatory-reporting state in the nation — one where everyone is required to report,” said activist Lauren Book, a 27-year-old survivor of long-term childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her nanny. Founder of an advocacy and education organization called Lauren’s Kids, Book was a lead architect of the legislation, signed Gov. Rick Scott. Before the law, the Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act, there was no legal requirement to report suspected abuse if the abuser wasn’t a parent or caretaker.