Miller asks GAO to Expand Investigation into Child Abuse Reporting Laws to Include Athletics, Extracurricular Activities

WASHINGTON – In light of recent reports of sex abuse of student athletes at the hands of coaches, U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, today asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate youth athletic clubs’ handling of child abuse allegations. This would be part of an ongoing investigation by GAO, launched at Miller’s request last year, into the weaknesses in reporting laws and policies in the wake of the child sexual abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University and abuse scandals at other schools.

“Recent reports about the abuse of student athletes participating in public and private swim clubs have raised a number of new concerns about whether we have adequate laws and policies in place to prevent and address such abuse,” wrote Miller. “Accordingly, I write today to supplement my July 2012 request to include information about the prevalence of abuse among student athletes and the manner in which such abuse cases are reported, investigated and resolved.”

Last year, Rep. Miller asked the GAO to investigate whether existing laws and policies adequately prevent abuse of children in schools or on school campuses. GAO has previously identified many instances of the negligent and abusive use of seclusion and restraint techniques in our nation’s schools, which in some instances resulted in the death of a child. Also, GAO has reported to the committee on disturbing practices by some schools whereby school employees with histories of sexual misconduct have been passed from one school to another where they were free to continue abusing other children.

In May, Rep. Miller focused the entire month on the safety needs of our children as a national priority. During the month, Miller introduced three pieces of legislation – the Keeping All Students Safe Act, the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act, and the Protecting Students from Sexual and Violent Predators Act – aimed at supporting the rights of all children to be free from abuse and neglect in specific out-of-home settings.

The full text of the letter to GAO can be found here.

The full text of the letter to GAO is below:

The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro
Comptroller General
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street NW
Washington DC 20548-0001

Dear Mr. Dodaro:

In July of last year, I asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine a number of issues concerning existing laws that seek to prevent and address the abuse of children in schools. At that time, sexual abuse scandals on the campuses of the Pennsylvania State University and the Citadel brought to light the possibility such laws specifically designed and intended to keep children safe required closer scrutiny.

Recent reports about the abuse of student athletes participating in public and private swim clubs have raised a number of new concerns about whether we have adequate laws and policies in place to prevent and address such abuse. Accordingly, I write today to supplement my July 2012 request to include information about the prevalence of abuse among student athletes and the manner in which such abuse cases are reported, investigated and resolved.

Because federal child protection laws are not specifically directed toward student athletes and their participation in athletic clubs—as well as the coaches and staff who run them—existing state laws vary in what they require when allegations of abuse arise. The reports last month about the decades-old case of sexual abuse of a child swimmer by her adult coach Rick Curl raise significant questions around who is effectively overseeing the adults with whom we entrust the care of our student athletes.

In light of the troubling facts emerging from the Rick Curl and other abuse cases, and my long-standing commitment to protect our nation’s children, I respectfully request that GAO address the following questions:

  1. What is the prevalence of sexual and other abuse among student athletes participating in athletic clubs?
  2. When incidences of abuse occur on school property or institutions of post-secondary education, how are such incidents reported, investigated and resolved?
  3. How do athletic clubs report, investigate and resolve incidents of alleged sexual or other abuse? What roles, responsibilities and duties apply to the club’s leadership as well as the coaches and staff who run these clubs?
  4. What policies and procedures are in place to prevent and deter sexual and other abuse among student athletes?
  5. How are conflicts between existing mandatory child abuse reporting laws and the rules and regulations governing athletic clubs identified and resolved?

I appreciate your assistance with this request. Please direct your staff to coordinate GAO’s response with Scott Groginsky of the Committee’s Democratic staff at (202) 225-3725.

Sincerely,

George Miller
Senior Democratic Member

cc: Chairman John Kline