Calif. Assemblyman Mike GattoSACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Calif. Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Los Angeles) bill to strengthen training requirements and prevent child abuse in schools overcame its first legislative hurdle yesterday, passing the Assembly Education Committee by a vote of 5-0. The legislation would require all school employees to be trained according to standards developed by the Department of Education, in the proper identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect, so that abuse can be stopped in its tracks.

“By training school personnel to recognize the signs of abuse, it is my hope we will help stop it,” said Gatto. “And by training school personnel on their reporting duties, we give them the tools to notify authorities of potential abuse in a timely manner.”

The California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act requires certain professionals, known as mandated reporters, to report to law enforcement or protective services known or suspected instances of neglect, or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Despite these requirements, current law does not require school districts to train personnel on detecting and reporting child abuse.

Gatto’s legislation would specifically address this problem by requiring school employees to complete mandated-reporting training, either online or in-person, within the first six weeks of each year or the first six weeks after being hired.

Gatto has been working closely with child advocates and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, after recent reports showed that several cases of abuse were prolonged because many school personnel were unaware of their duty to report.

In the Redwood City School District, five staff members knew, but failed to tell authorities, about a teacher’s abuse of two five-year-old special-needs students. In the Brentwood Union School District, eleven employees did not alert authorities when a special-education teacher, who had already been convicted of child abuse, pulled an autistic student from his chair and kicked him. Eight additional students’ families have since come forward with similar claims against the same teacher.

“Our current system fails if it prolongs a child’s pain,” Gatto stated. “AB 1432 is a simple, straight-forward means of making sure school personnel understand their responsibilities for protecting our children from predators.”

Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the California State Assembly. He represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake.