College workers must report abuse under new law

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon higher education employees and coaches are joining the list of people required by law to tell authorities when they believe a child has been abused.

The mandate, partially an outgrowth of the sex-abuse scandal at Penn State University, is one of 14 new laws that hit the books in Oregon when the new year begins Tuesday.

Teachers, health care workers, clergy, lawyers and people working in a variety of other professions already are required to tell police or the Department of Human Services when they suspect a child has been abused. Now, anyone who works for a community college, university or child-services provider will have the same requirement, whether they’re the president, groundskeeper or a paid student worker.

Those covered by the mandate must report all potential child abuse regardless of whether it’s related to their job.

University administrators have emailed staff with answers to frequent questions about the new responsibility, and some have planned training sessions for early next year, said Di Saunders, an Oregon University System spokeswoman.

“All of us benefit from ensuring that criminal activity, including possible child abuse and prohibited discrimination, are reported and appropriately addressed,” University of Oregon president Michael Gottfredson wrote in a memo to employees.

The measure’s chief proponent, Democratic Rep. Sara Gelser of Corvallis, said it’s important for anyone to report potential child abuse, and to remember that they only need a suspicion — not proof — to make a report.

“Whether you’re a mandatory reporter or not, kids rely on these reports,” Gelser said. “If someone is worried about a child, they should pick up the phone, make the report, and know they’ve done the right thing.”

Among the other laws taking effect next week:

— Insurance plans will be required to pay for repair of cleft lips, cleft palates and similar birth defects if the procedures are “medically necessary to restore function.”

— The Oregon Department of Transportation won’t have to get permission from cities before chopping down trees.

— Drunken drivers who cause fatal accidents will have to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle for five years after their driving privileges are restored.

— Some jewelry dealers will have to keep more detailed records of people selling gold, silver, platinum or palladium in hopes of helping police nab thieves.

— School districts will be required to adopt policies designed to prevent teen dating violence.

Also Tuesday, the minimum wage will rise 15 cents to $8.95 per hour — not because of any new law but because of a 2002 ballot measure that increases the minimum wage based on inflation.

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