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N.Y. Private Schools Didn't Have to Report Abuse to Police. A New Law Changes That.

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Private schools in New York state will soon be required to immediately report suspected physical and sexual abuse of students in their schools to law enforcement. Parents and state education officials must also be notified. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law earlier this month that brings private schools under the same reporting rules for abuse as many of the state's public schools.

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Under current law, public schools in New York City also are¬†exempted from following those reporting requirements—the city's schools now report abuse to the New York City Special Commissioner of Investigation or the New York City Police Department. That exemption will be eliminated once the changes go into affect in June.

The revamped law explicitly states that all public schools, charter schools, and nonpublic schools, as well as several other alternative K-12 programs such as those for students with disabilities, are covered by the same reporting requirements.

The bill's sponsors cited recent revelations of abuse that occurred in private schools and went unreported—with accused teachers sometimes transferring to another school—as justification for closing the loopholes in the reporting requirements originally created nearly 20 years ago.

In one recent high-profile case, several former students and teachers at Nichols High School, a private school in Buffalo, told the Buffalo News that they were either involved in or knew of inappropriate relationships between teachers and students several years ago.

One former Nichols student came forward earlier this year about a sexual relationship she had in the 1990s with her 48-year-old teacher when she was 17. The age of consent in New York is 16. Two top administrators at the school were allegedly told about the relationship at the time but did nothing.

An investigation conducted by a law firm hired by Nichols this year found that 10 former teachers had engaged in "sexual misconduct or inappropriate emotional relationships with students."

New York's new reporting rules also expand the list of school employees required to report suspected abuse to include teacher aides, school resource officers, and even some employees of companies contracting with the school, such as school bus drivers.

All private school teachers and administrators will also be required to participate in training on how to identify and report abuse.

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