JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A new law aimed at protecting Florida’s children is officially on the books. Inspired by the sexual abuse cover-up at Penn State University, Floridians are now being held responsible for knowingly failing to report child abuse or even suspicions of child abuse.
Those who don't report could face penalties ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Public or private colleges and universities could also face fines up to $1 million for intentional unreported assaults.
Advocates are billing the new law as the toughest in the nation and also requires anyone suspecting a child has been abused by any person to report it to the Department of Children & Families — 1-800-962-2873 — or 911 if there’s an immediate danger.
“This law will help ensure all allegations of a child being harmed are immediately investigated by the appropriate agency,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins. “Reporting child abuse is our moral and legal obligation.”
Before Monday, the abuse hotline accepted complaints only if the alleged abuser was a caregiver. Now, abuse by anyone can be reported. Children and Families will continue investigating complaints against caregivers while allegations against others will be referred to local law enforcement agencies.