On Tuesday Montgomery, Frederick, Prince George’s and Howard Counties joined forces to push for the passage of multiple bills before the Maryland General Assembly.
The legislation State’s Attorneys offices are pushing for is aimed to better protect against child sex abuse and trafficking. The State’s Attorneys were also joined by Turn Around Inc. and several advocacy groups and survivors. Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy says these bills would close a significant loophole and protect some of the most vulnerable victims.
Those bills include:
“House Bill 226/Senate Bill 21 would strengthen the prosecution of child sex abuse by expanding the definition of “Person in Position of Authority” to coaches, counselors, and teachers outside the school system that utilize their position to victimize children,” according to Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“House Bill 297/Senate Bill 292 ensures that child trafficking victims are not prosecuted for their own victimization and instead are referred to proper services through the Regional Navigator Program.”
McCarthy says the passing of these two bills is urgent. But this is the third year a bill to expand the definition of a “person in a position of authority” to any adult who works with children outside a traditional school setting.
“Many persons in positions of authority over minors are excluded from the current law. SB21 expands the definition of person in position of authority to include teachers, coaches, counselors, and others who work with children outside of the traditional school setting. Individuals who are in any of the roles included in this bill hold positions of trust, and any person who grooms or manipulates a child for the purposes of sexual exploitation should be held accountable,” said McCarthy.
Last month, the Safe Harbor bill was voted favorably out of the House of Delegates and now remains in Judicial Proceedings on the Senate side. No action has been taken yet.
The Person in a Position of Authority bill passed out of the House of Delegates last week. A hearing has not been scheduled by Judicial Proceedings.