In the aftermath of the Penn State University scandal, Howard County Board of Education member Brian Meshkin is asking colleagues to consider supporting legislation that will make Maryland child sexual abuse laws tougher.
Such cases hit home for Meshkin.
"I asked myself, 'Could something like Penn State happen here?' and the answer is 'Yes, it could,'" Meshkin said. "It already has.
"We've already had instances here in Howard County where teachers and coaches have engaged in this awful conduct," he said. "For three out of my four high school years, I worked with a man who was sexually abusing children."
Klaude Krannebitter, Meshkin's former basketball coach at Glenelg High School and a physical education teacher at Glenwood Middle School, was convicted of child sex abuse in 1999.
Maryland law requires educators, health practitioners, social workers and police officers to report suspected cases of child abuse, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun.
But, the state has no power to prosecute when the law is not followed.
Meshkin said attaching a criminal penalty will make people more likely to report such crimes.
The school board is in the process of approving its legislative platform for the coming State Assembly. Meshkin asked his colleagues to support any legislative efforts that may come forth in Annapolis regarding laws concerning the reporting of suspected child sexual abuse.
State Sen. Nancy Jacob (34th District) has told several media outlets she plans to introduce a law making the failure to report suspected child abuse a criminal offense.
As stewards of Howard County's youth, the school board needs to take a leadership role in supporting such legislation, Meshkin said.
"I can't speak for the entire board, but I think the people who elected me would support a law like this — we want to see a criminal penalty for that kind of behavior," he said.
The school board tabled its legislative platform at Thursday's meeting to allow a staff attorney time to develop language supporting such legislation for the board to review at its next meeting.
In recent weeks, Penn State football defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky has been implicated in a series of sexual abuse cases involving children in his care, and subsequent allegations came this week of child molestation involving a Syracuse University basketball coach.