DENVER — The Prairie Middle School case involving school administrators being accused of not reporting child abuse to police took center stage at the state Capitol on Monday.
The issue is the belief the case against the administrators soon might be dropped because of the statute of limitations.
It’s currently 18 months and the incident involving reporting at Prairie Middle School happened in 2014.
State Sen. Rhonda Fields is bringing a bill that would extend the statute of limitations from 18 months to five years.
Originally, Fields introduced a bill to extend it until discovery by police, but her amended bill capped it at five years.
“Right now in some scenarios they are not reporting it, they are sweeping it under the rug and allowing someone who molests kids or someone who rapes kids to go on,” Fields said.
After a lengthy debate featuring victims of abuse, the attorney of the victims at Prairie Middle School and other advocates, GOP members decided to wait on a vote until more information could be gathered.
Before the hearing, opposition was vocal in the media. The Colorado Catholic Conference as well as the Colorado Education Association spoke out against the bill.
The Colorado Catholic Conference released a statement ahead of the bill’s hearing.
“The sexual abuse of a child is a despicable crime, regardless of whether the offender is a member of the clergy, a teacher, counselor, or family member.
“Children must be protected from abuse in all cases, and survivors need to be helped on their journey toward healing. The Catholic Church has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse.
“The concern with Senate Bill 18-058, as written, is that it creates an indefinite statute of limitations regarding mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect.
“The principle of statutes of limitation acknowledges that as time elapses, evidence goes stale, memories fade, witnesses die or disappear.
“In cases of child abuse, we should do everything possible to encourage victims to come forward as soon as possible and for those aware of the abuse to report it as soon as possible.
“Our state law should reflect this policy as a matter of basic fairness to those involved and not go down a slippery slope that potentially creates unfair and unjust situations.
“There are over 30 mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect in Colorado; the Catholic Church is not alone in its concern regarding Senate Bill 18-058.”
One person in support of the bill is 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler, the prosecutor of the Prairie Middle School administrators.
While he still believes the statute of limitations can still apply to his case, he told lawmakers 18 months is not enough time.
“Here in the state of Colorado people can all get together and decide not to report 18 months and one day later they are free,” Brauchler said.