Failing to report suspected cases of child abuse could carry a fine and criminal penalties under a bill sponsored by state Sen. Nancy Jacobs.
Jacobs' bill would make failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1000 or a year in jail.
"We have a really good reporting law here in Maryland—practically everybody has to report in Maryland—but what we need is some teeth to that," Jacobs said. "We don't want to have what happened at Penn State ... happen here."
The bill, which was scheduled for a hearing Wednesday afternoon, comes on the heels of the Penn State University , a defensive coach for the school's football team, is accused of abusing children. A grand jury report found that members of the staff reported allegedly witnessing some children being abused, but reported it only to head coach , rather than to police.
Current state law requires health care professionals, police officers, educators, and human service workers to report any case of suspected child abuse or neglect.
Maryland is one of only three states that does not impose a criminal penalty for failing to report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect.
Adam Rosenberg, executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, said the law is needed.
The Baltimore-based nonprofit provides medical treatment and crisis counseling to victims of child abuse. Rosenberg said the center is on pace to handle nearly 1,000 cases of sexual abuse of children this year.
"We're not able to do our job unless the public and the mandated reporters do their jobs," Rosenberg said. "All too often, in the cases we see at the center and that I saw as a prosecutor, people did not report abuse."