Assemblyman David McDonough pushes bill mandating private school officials to report sexual abuse

By Michael O'keeffe (NY Daily News)
May 22, 2016

Private school administrators in New York are not required to report sexual abuse allegations to law-enforcement officials — even after horrifying scandals roiled three prominent city prep schools.

Assemblyman David McDonough (R-Merrick) says it's time to close a loophole that contributed to sex abuse scandals at Horace Mann, Poly Prep and Yeshiva University High School.

"The sad fact is so many students have been abused in schools and it is not reported," McDonough said. "You can't continue to sweep this stuff under the rug. Parents are surprised to learn that their kids are not protected under the laws of New York."

Public school administrators are already required by state education law to report sexual abuse allegations to police or prosecutors. McDonough introduced legislation last month in the Assembly that would amend the law to include private school officials as well.

Child-safety advocate Mary Pulido called McDonough's proposal a no-brainer.

"The private schools can do whatever the heck they want in terms of sexual abuse," said Pulido, the executive director of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

"It is such an easy fix, it doesn't require any money, and it gives private school kids the same protections as public school students," Pulido added.

McDonough said the bill will safeguard the rights of nearly 500,000 students who attend private schools in the state.

Catholic Conference spokesman Dennis Poust said his organization has no objections to McDonough's proposal.

"Our school administrators would already report such accusations as part of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," he said, citing the 2002 document prepared by American bishops in the wake of a vast sex abuse scandal.

Former students at Horace Mann, Poly Prep and Yeshiva University High School have charged in recent years that officials failed to notify authorities after they reported they had been sexually abused by teachers, administrators and coaches.

McDonough said the bill has attracted bipartisan support in the Assembly, where it has 23 sponsors. It does not currently have a sponsor in the Senate, but McDonough said he expects he will get one this week.

"I'm confident we will send a bill to the governor," McDonough said. "This is for the protection of kids."