If Joe Paterno Were in NJ, What Would Happen?
It is alleged that Joe Paterno knowingly did not report child sexual abuse to the authorities after it had been witnessed by a graduate student who alleges that he saw the abuse first hand. Some fans are asking, what did he do wrong? He reported it to the University, but did he have an obligation to go further?
If this had occurred in New Jersey, the answer is yes…and teachers, professionals and even lay persons who witness abuse should be aware that there is a mandatory reporting statute in New Jersey. Failure to report suspected abuse can carry a fine of up
to $1000 and six months in jail as a disorderly persons offense (see NJSA 9:6-8.14). For those concerned about the possibility that an employer will retaliate, New Jersey also has a Conscientous Employee Protection Act (CEPA, N.J.S.A. 34:19-1) which is one of
the strongest whistleblower protection acts in the country. If an employee reasonably believes that illegal activity is taking place (such as failure to report child abuse as described above), they are protected under that Act from employer retribution.
In the coming months as the scandal at Penn State plays out, it is most important that we all remember that children’s voices are smaller, and they need our voices to be loud and unwavering to protect them. Child abuse is prevelant, real and creates
a lifetime of damage. Do your part, and your legal duty. If you suspect abuse, report it.
To report abuse in New Jersey, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, call 1-877-NJ-ABUSE. For more
information of the signs of abuse or how to report, visit http://nj.gov/dcf/abuse/how/ .