Push for Legislation Closing Private-School Abuse Loophole

ALBANY/NEW YORK CITY (AP/Hamodia) -

Private schools in New York should be required to immediately report allegations of staff members abusing students, just as public schools are mandated to do, state lawmakers and a prosecutor said.

Senate Democrats and Erie County District Attorney John Flynn cited a recent report of decades of allegations at one of Buffalo’s most prestigious high schools. They appeared in Albany Monday to support legislation that would require private schools to report allegations in an educational setting to police.

Current state law requires public school administrators to report a school employee’s inappropriate behavior with students to authorities immediately. That law doesn’t apply to private schools. Sen. John Brooks of Long Island said his legislation would close that loophole. Among those backing the measure are Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins of Yonkers and Sen. Tim Kennedy, of Buffalo.

The legislation, sponsored in the Assembly by Fred W. Thiele Jr., of Sag Harbor, would also prohibit private school officials from withholding allegations from police in exchange for the accused person’s resignation.

Officials with the New York State Catholic Conference said the organization’s schools already have their own reporting requirements. “We think that bill is no-brainer and we support it strongly,” spokesman Dennis Poust said. “We think to make that a mandate is a wise thing.”

Proponents of the private-school reporting legislation said the measure goes hand-in-hand with efforts to get the Child Victims Act passed by the Legislature. The legislation, firmly opposed by the Catholic Church and yeshivah organizations, would allow victims to sue the institution even after the statute of limitations on civil cases has expired. That measure is only targeted at private schools; public schools would be exempt.

The measure has been passed by the Democrat-controlled Assembly but hasn’t advanced in the Republican-led Senate.