Nichols School Fallout: More calls to close reporting loophole

Posted at 12:49 PM, Jan 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-10 18:26:56-05

During a morning press conference, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn and NYS Senator Tim Kennedy (D-63rd Senate District) called for changes to NYS Education law that requires public schools to report accusations of child abuse committed in an educational setting - but not private schools.

The call comes after a recent report showed 10 teachers at the Nichols School in Buffalo had inappropriate relationships with students over several decades.  The last reported incidents took place in the mid-2000's and Nichols School has since implemented changes in light of what happened.

"There are administrators who are withholding information from authorities because they legally can," said NYS Senator Kennedy.

Kennedy is co-sponsoring a bill to close the loophole in NYS law (S.4342) that allows private school administrators to withhold information about child abuse committed by school employees or volunteers from authorities. 

By contrast, that same law mandates the reporting by public schools about accusations of child abuse and it prohibits school administrators from withholding an allegation of abuse from authorities in exchange for the accused's resignation or suspension.

"Children in private schools are entitled to the same protections from sexual predators as children in public schools," explained Flynn.

"As a state, we need to put the safety of our children and best interest of our children first," added NYS Senator Tim Kennedy.

Both Flynn and Kennedy are also upset that a proposed bill called "The Child Victims Act," that would extend the timeline for victims to take legal action against perpetrators, failed to pass the NYS Senate last year.

Currently the statute of limitations is set at age 23 for victims to seek legal action against a perpetrator.

The Child Victims Act would allow former students to seek legal action when they are adults by extending the statute of limitations.  John Flynn said district attorney's across NYS (District Attorneys Association of the State of New York) are supporting passage of this act.

Under the proposed Child Victim's Act, a one year look back period would be granted allowing adults of any age to commence legal action against an abuser.

The bill failed to get the backing of the Republican majority in the NYS Senate.

A spokesperson from NYS Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan told 7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly that Republicans feared the legislation would open the door to people making claims from decades ago where witnesses don't still exist and stories have changed.

The spokesperson said Republicans are concerned about the problem and will be looking at other legislation to protect children and help victims with the statute of limitation against sexual predators.

It is hoped those measures will be dealt with later in the legislative session.

You can hear more in Ed Reilly's reports.