(The Center Square) – A bill that would require school officials to talk to a social worker or professional when dealing with a sexual abuse victim or pregnancy has passed through the Senate.
House Bill 3173 would then require the social worker to use their professional opinion on whether or not to notify the parents of the student.
Under existing rules, school employees have no requirements to tell anyone other than the parents. House Bill 3173 would change those requirements.
Senate sponsor Kimberly Lightford said that the reason for change is important.
"The unfortunate reality is that a lot of sexual abuse happens at the home," she said. "A pregnancy could result from that abuse and we want trained professionals to consider that risk."
State Sen. Sue Rezin has raised questions about the legislation. She said it could limit what can be done regarding sexual abuse or pregnancy.
"There is no state statute that says if you go to a counselor and tell them that you're pregnant that they can not tell the parents," Rezin said. "This bill tells them that they can not."
According to RAINN, the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, 93% of juveniles who have faced abuse have known their attacker, and 34% of those attackers were members of the victim's family.
Lightford said that when notifying the parents first before a counselor or professional you could be putting the student in more harm.
"You could be putting that child in more of a danger and put them in more harm way if you notify the parents when the abuse comes from the home," Lightford said.
The bill is currently up for concurrence in the House. If agreed on, the bill would be sent to the governor.