Springfield, IL…. In the wake of scandals rocking the USA Gymnastics and Swimming programs, State Representative Margo McDermed (R-Mokena) has filed House Bill 5131 to strengthen the Illinois Child Abuse and Neglect Act. News investigations in to both organizations found that individuals within the programs failed to act when faced with accusations and evidence against coaches and others in power.
“In light of recent reports that shocked parents everywhere, but unfortunately were unsurprising to many involved in the sports world, this bill is vital to protect our children,” Rep. McDermed said. “It’s clear that there is a systemic problem in children’s athletic programs and a tendency towards covering it up instead of taking action.”
HB 5131 increases the criminal penalty for any person who knowingly violates reporting requirements of abuse or neglect from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class 4 felony. It further states that anyone who does so as part of a cover-up or to protect a person from prosecution commits a Class 3 felony. The bill also requires recreational or athletic program personnel who are required to report child abuse to complete mandated training on recognizing and reporting child abuse.
“We are hearing far too often that victims were ignored and abuses were swept under the rug to protect a program’s image. That is unacceptable.” Rep. McDermed continued. “In a perfect world, no child is abused or neglected. However, if and when any inappropriate behavior occurs, it is the responsibility of those we entrust with our children to listen to them and to take action immediately. Children who pursue their passions and hobbies should be able to do so safely and without fear.”
HB 5131 has been filed in the Illinois House and is awaiting committee assignment.