Walker signs executive order on child abuse

MADISON -- Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Monday signed an executive order requiring any state university employee to report any possible child abuse or neglect to an outside agency, or the police, who will be required to investigate, which virtually eliminates any opportunity to sweep the abuse under the rug.

The executive order applies to all University of Wisconsin System employees, and it comes in the wake of recent high-profile sexual abuse scandals at Syracuse University and Penn State University. Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is charged with more than 50 sex-abuse related crimes against at least 10 victims.

Allegedly, many of the offenses happened in Penn State facilities. The case is troubling to child advocates because witnesses who allegedly saw the crimes, reported them only to other coaches, supervisors and administrators, and not the police. "There was a failure to report to individuals who would properly take action," Walker said.

Barbara Knox with the Wisconsin Children's Trust Fund says this executive order is important, in light of the scandal at Penn State. "The Penn State incident involves multiple adults, many of them well educated and in positions of authority, who failed to report to law enforcement officials or take any meaningful action in response to strong suspicion of sexual abuse activities," Knox said.

Governor Walker's executive order would require any witness, including professors, administrators and coaches, to report any sort of abuse not simply to a supervisor, but to either police, or a government Child Protective Services agency with the authority and responsibility to investigate. "This order captures and clarifies our fundamental moral responsibility and solemn obligation to safeguard all children," UW System President Kevin Reilly said.

Governor Walker says an employee who sees or knows of abuse and fails to report it could face criminal penalties. "They're now required. It's not just an option. It's a requirement under this executive order. Unfortunately in other states, that was not a requirement," Walker said.