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Approval for bill package, includes coaches aren't mandatory reporters

Posted at 9:28 AM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 11:25:17-04

"I think that if they pass that, they should be ashamed," said Sherry Paul, parent, after hearing that a plan to require youth coaches to report sex-abuse claims may be dead.

Wednesday the House Law and Justice Committee approved the sexual assault bill package aimed to modernize Michigan's laws regarding prosecution and reporting sexual assault claims. The package includes house bill 5659, which leaves coaches off the mandatory reporter list. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Beth Griffin, 66th District.

Governor Rick Snyder released a statement Wednesday, “I appreciate the diligent efforts of my legislative partners in listening to many different accounts from survivors of sexual assault and other experts in the field as these bills took shape. Sexual assault is a horrific crime with terrible consequences, so it is important that we as policymakers very carefully consider how new laws can best help support those who have suffered, while also aiming to prevent further sexual assaults all across the state of Michigan. I feel that in this case, a wide range of input over the course of several months has helped shape the best possible solution that has garnered bipartisan support. I support this version of the bill package moving forward.”

"The coach intimidated her and cross-examined her and essentially intimidate her out of filing," said a lawyer for one of the Larry Nassar victims. The lawyer is referring to former Michigan Statue University gymnastics coach Kathy Klages.

Multiple women said they told Klages, Nassar abused them and that she never told police.  It's one of the reasons the state Senate voted to require coaches to report sex abuse. Now that plan has been stripped from the bill.

FOX 47s Alani Letang has been digging to find out why.

The official reason the representatives pushing the bill gave us is they're worried expanding the number of reporters would mean not providing enough resources and the cost and possibility that legit cases of abuse will fall through the cracks.  Parents told us it makes sense to require coaches to report abuse since coaches spend so much time with kids.

"I think it's kind of silly, the coach is going to be the first person that is going to hear about it more than likely," said Joe Thorne, father of five.

Out of five kids, Joe Thorne has four that play sports.

He can't believe coaches aren't on the list of people required to report sexual abuse claims that are brought to them.

"I think they should absolutely be required too and even if they weren't required so I think it's the right thing to do no matter what," said Thorne.  Coaches won't be required to under a house bill 5659, part of a package inspired by the Larry Nassar scandal.

This bill would expand the list of mandatory reporters to physical therapists and their assistants, but not coaches, paid or volunteer.

"It should include everyone. I don't care who it is, everybody should be responsible and held accountable," said Paul.

Parents told Letang it's concerning if coaches aren't required to report sexual assault claims.

Paul said athletes will, "have to turn to their parents, and what happens parents don't believe them, I don't know who they'll turn too, I think it's terrible."

Representatives working on the bill told us eliminating coaches from the list will keep the number of sexual assault reports manageable. Parents said they were in disbelief at that justification.