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Michigan bills add mandatory reporters after Nassar scandal

June 19, 2019
FILE - In this Feb. 2, 2018, file photo, Larry Nassar listens as Melissa Alexander Vigogne gives her victim statement in Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Mich. USA Gymnastics is overhauling its Safe Sport policy in hopes of providing better protection for athletes and clearer guidelines for coaches, parents, trainers and club owners on what constitutes abuse. The organization released the new policy on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, after consulting with a wide spectrum of people inside and outside the sport. The group included child welfare advocates and survivors of emotional and sexual abuse, including one athlete abused by former national team doctor Larry Nassar. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP, File)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to add athletic trainers and physical therapists to the state’s list of mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect, trying again to push through legislation inspired by the Larry Nassar scandal after efforts last term stalled due the inclusion of coaches.

Some of Nassar’s victims have said they told a gymnastics coach and trainers at Michigan State University, where the former sports doctor worked, that he had molested them under the guise of treatment, but nothing was done.

The new legislation was approved on votes ranging between 106-3 and 109-0, and sent to the state Senate for further consideration.

“It’s increasing the number of responsible adults that are in the positions that can better catch ... criminal sexual assault,” said a sponsor, Republican state Rep. Beth Griffin, of Mattawan.

Griffin, a former teacher and gymnastics coach, said she was disappointed that coaches were not included in the mandatory reporter bills. She pointed to difficulty distinguishing among paid coaches, part-time coaches and voluntary coaches, and said coaches ultimately were not added as the result of a compromise.

“I think the bills before you today do represent significant steps forward in helping protect kids,” she said.

Michigan requires health providers, psychologists, teachers, police, clergy and others to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the authorities.

Another bill that was passed Wednesday would make it a crime for someone to use his or her professional authority over another person to prevent the reporting of sexual assaults. A sponsor of the bill, Republican Rep. Julie Alexander of Hanover, said current state law only covers the use of physical force in blocking the reporting of sexual assaults to the authorities.

Michigan also enacted several Nassar-inspired laws in 2018. They gave his victims a window to sue retroactively, lengthened the period for prosecutors to bring charges for certain sex crimes, eased the prosecution of alleged abusers, stiffened child pornography penalties and let more people speak at sentencings under certain circumstances.

Nassar, who also worked at USA Gymnastics, is serving effective life sentences for child porn possession and molesting young women and girls.

Former Michigan State gymnastics head coach Kathie Klages has denied former gymnast Larissa Boyce’s claim that she told Klages that Nassar had abused her in 1997, when Boyce, then 16, was training with the Spartan youth gymnastics team. Boyce said Klages dissuaded her from taking it further even after another gymnast who was 14 told Klages she had received similar “treatments.”

Klages has been charged with lying to police.

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Online:

House Bills 4108, 4374, 4376-77 and 4383: http://bit.ly/2WRJDMr

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