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Coaching abuse scandals spur state assembly bill

December 12, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
A California state lawmaker is pushing for new laws to protect students from sexual abuse in athletics programs.

The Pennsylvania State University child-sex-abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky sounded the alarm on how coaches can and sometimes do take advantage of their power.

It's not hard to find similar cases here in California. Just two weeks ago, a jury convicted Coach Melvin Flemings of using six of his high school basketball players in sexual videos and photos.

One of the victim's mothers, who didn't want to identify herself for fear of exposing her son, says the abuse changed their lives forever.

Now California lawmakers want to help make sports programs safer for kids.

The latest bill about to be introduced requires organizations that employ coaches and athletic directors to provide two-hour training on what is inappropriate and illegal contact with minors.

"Sometimes it takes a very high-profile case that shocks our conscience to get us to act," said Assm. Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento).

Dickinson also wants to add coaches to the list of professionals that must report sexual abuse of a child to law enforcement agencies.

Penn State's legendary coach Joe Paterno was highly criticized and eventually fired after reporting Sandusky only to university administrators.

"It's not just 'Tell your superior.' It's 'Tell the police.' It's criminal conduct," said Dickinson.

Former WNBA star turned coach Ruthie Bolton says she doesn't mind having to go through the extra training and requirements. Young athletes are supposed to trust their coaches.

"Sometimes people may say it's not my business. I don't want to get into it. But it is our business. They need us," said Bolton.

Another bill by Assemblyman Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) seeks to take away the tax-exempt status of youth baseball leagues or basketball camps if they conceal or fail to report the sexual abuse of a child. Opponents of the proposals can submit their concerns to lawmakers when session reconvenes in January.

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