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Greg Lavelle Introduces Legislation Waiving The State’s Sovereign Immunity In Child Sex Abuse Cases

June 21, 2007

Contact: Stephanie Mantegna, House of Representatives, 302-577-8515


Following through on a promise made earlier this week on the floor of the House of Representatives, State Representative Gregory F. Lavelle (R-Sharpley) today introduced legislation that is aimed at ensuring the 125,000 children in Delaware's public school system and other children under the care of the state are afforded the same protections in Senate Bill 29 as those afforded to children under the care of private sector institutions.

House Bill 242 would waive the state's sovereign immunity in child sexual abuse cases. The bill was introduced after House Amendment 4 to Senate Bill 29 was defeated in the House on Tuesday (June 19).

According to Rep. Lavelle, "As I have stated many, many times before this ensures fairness in the protection of all children. The protections afforded child sexual abuse victims who suffered at the hands of an abuser employed by a private or nonprofit organization should be the same as those afforded to victims of abuse in the public sector."

Rep. Lavelle said, "Why is a child under the care of the Boys and Girls Club or the YMCA any different than a child under the care of the Brandywine, Capital or Delmar School Districts? There is no difference and government should recognize them all the same."

The bill has also gained the support of the State of Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council. Executive Director Pat Maichle said, "This is a huge issue for our community given the number of children enrolled in our public schools. There are many studies documenting that children with disabilities are disproportionately victims of abuse. Children with disabilities are assaulted at a rate six times higher than the general population. Children with a reported disability are 68% more likely to be victims of maltreatment than children with no reported disability."

Tania Culley, the Child Advocate for the State of Delaware, stated, "If a child is entitled to the recovery of damages as a victim of child sexual abuse, it should not matter if the victim was under the care of the private or public sector."

Kyle Hodges with the State Council for People with Disabilities stated, "Our council supports House Bill 242 because it is consistent with our previous recommendations on Senate Bill 29 that language should be included explicitly waiving the state from sovereign immunity in these types of cases."

The legislation, in addition to Rep. Lavelle, is sponsored by 34 House and Senate members.

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