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Lawmakers stress importance of reporting child abuse

State Senator Percy Malone said it's time to get serious about reporting abuse.
ARKADELPHIA, AR -- It's been over a month since people in Arkadelphia learned of an investigation at Perritt Primary School.

The Department of Human Services only says an incident involving kindergartners and first graders occurred in the school's bathroom.  It led to shake-ups at the school.

"They need to do their job whether they do it or not and the ones who don't should be punished for it," said Brenda McElroy, who has children in the district.

But State Senator Percy Malone, whose district includes Arkadelphia, said it's time to get serious about reporting abuse.  He wanted to bring the discussion where it's still fresh on people's minds.

"We know that the brain pattern of children abused changes and we know a lot that we didn't know ten years ago, even five years ago," Malone said.

Arkansas state law lists thirty-seven professionals as mandated reporters -- including school personnel -- but child advocacy groups say everyone should report child abuse, even if you don't have all the facts.

"We want to give them hope. We want to give them a childhood and if they've had some abuse happen, we want to give that back to them because there is that hope," said Janice McCutcheon, director of the Cooper-Anthony Mercy Child Advocacy Center, which is based in Hot Springs.

At the end of the day, parents say it's all about having constant communication with children so they open up.

"That openness really relaxes them to go ahead and talk so that's one of the things that we really stress to them," said Charles McElroy.

The number to the state's Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-482-5964.

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