SOUTHWEST DUTCHESS, N.Y. – The case of a former Dutchess County Boy Scout leader found guilty of molesting two teenage boys has spurred a call for the broadening of mandatory state reporting laws, according to The Poughkeepsie Journal.
Michael Kelsey, a former county legislator from Salt Point, was convicted in May of fondling one of the scouts and trying to touch the other while on an Adirondacks camping trip in 2014. He faces up to 11 years in prison when sentenced next month, according to multiple media reports.
Under state law, the Boy Scouts, as an organization, is not among those listed as mandatory first reporters in child abuse cases, but under its own policy’s guidelines, it is supposed to notify law enforcement when such abuse is suspected, The Poughkeepsie Journal reported.
The Hudson Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America removed Kelsey from his position when the abuse allegations came to light, but did not notify the police until after it was confronted by the victims’ parents, state police investigators told The Poughkeepsie Journal.
State Sen. Sue Serino, R-Hyde Park, plans to seek a sponsor in the Assembly for her bill that would, she said, close the gap in the state’s mandatory reporting laws, The Poughkeepsie Journal story said.
According to Serino’s website, it would require anyone in a position of “authority” or “trust” to report suspected sexual abuse to police. It includes penalties for those that don’t.
Using the Kelsey case as an example, Serino’s bill points out constraints placed on reporting by the Family Court Act.
The act, it says, defines an abused child as "a child less than eighteen years of age whose parent or other person legally responsible for his care commits certain delineated acts.”
Because of this “language,” Serino’s bill says, “mandated reporters are only required to report suspected instances of child abuse that occur in a domestic setting.”
Serino, citing statistics from the National Sex Offender Public Registry, said that “60 percent of those who sexually abuse children turn out to be individuals known to the child, but are not family members.”
“All too often abuse happens at the hands of those outside of the family, by those in positions of authority or trust: teachers, coaches, troop leaders, supervisors, counselors, etc.,” Serino said.
Referring to the Kelsey case, Serino said the former Dutchess County legislator’s “position of authority” played a role in the victims’ delaying reporting the abuse.
According to the senator, news outlets reported that one boy had “noted that the offender was viewed in the community as 'a great guy' who 'so many people look up to.'”
It’s the state’s responsibility, Serino says in her bill, “to ensure the health and safety of its children and that means providing law enforcement and prosecutors with the tools they need to identify, stop and prosecute abuse to the fullest extent.”
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