(NewsCore) – The Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State prompted officials in Florida to tighten the state’s laws on reporting child sex abuse.
The new measures, which take effect Oct. 1 after being signed into law Friday by Florida governor Rick Scott, represent the toughest in the nation.
A fine of up to $1 million per incident will be imposed, along with criminal charges on any public or private college or university that fails to inform authorities of abuse claims on campus or at events sponsored by the institution.
Any individual failing to report any known or suspected abuse will be charged with a third-degree felony under the new law, which will replace the current misdemeanor penalty.
Previously, it only was mandatory under Florida law to report abuse when the suspect was a parent or caregiver of a child.
The changes came in light of the child molestation cover-up scandal at Penn State, which has seen former defensive coordinator Sandusky accused of sexually abusing 10 boys over a 15-year period. He denies the charges and is still to stand trial.
Athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz stood down from their positions for failing to report the allegations against Sandusky. Both are accused of perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse.
Penn State also controversially fired longtime coach Joe Paterno, now deceased, along with president Graham Spanier as it cleaned house amid the scandal.
Tallahassee lobbyist Ron Book proposed and pushed for Florida’s “Protection of Vulnerable Persons” bill with his daughter Lauren.
He told The Miami Herald, “This law will break the culture we have learned so much about in the wake of the Penn State [and other] child abuse scandals, where institutions seemed to think the names of their institutions were more important than protecting children.”
Virginia, Washington and West Virginia also passed laws in the past month that added university officials to the list of “mandated reporters” of suspected child abuse.
Read more: Miami Herald