Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment. Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.
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Host: Scott LaMar
Sexually violent predator Jerry Sandusky will spend the rest of his life in a state prison cell. But what is Pennsylvania doing to ensure that more children are not sexually victimized by predators? We'll put the spotlight back on the protection of children on Smart Talk, Thursday night at 8, on witf TV. The Task Force on Child Protection, convened by the legislature after the Sandusky case broke, is expected to issue its report by November 30. The task force is looking at all aspects of child abuse prevention, reporting and training to determine areas of weakness and propose remedies. We'll preview its findings and explore areas where Pennsylvania's children remain vulnerable.
Our panel of experts includes Beverly Mackereth, deputy secretary of the Office of Children, Youth and Families in the state Department of Public Welfare. Her boss, DPW Secretary Gary Alexander, is an ex officio member of the task force. Also on our program are Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Protect our Children Committee, a coalition of children's advocacy groups in Pennsylvania, and, Charles Thompson, a reporter for the Pulitzer Prize-winning team at The Patriot-News of Harrisburg. Thompson has covered the Sandusky case since its inception.
Judge John Cleland sentenced the 68-year-old Sandusky Tuesday to 30 to 60 years in prison - in practical terms, a life sentence - after a Centre County jury found him guilty last June of 45 counts of child sexual abuse. Sandusky maintains his innocence and claims he was the victim of a conspiracy. Penn State administrators Tim Curley and Gary Schultz await their January trial for allegedly failing to report, and then lying to a grand jury about, child sex abuse allegations against Sandusky.
State Senator Pat Vance (R-Cumberland County) sponsored a bill that requires schools to provide training for school employees on how to recognize and report suspected cases of child abuse. That is one of the only significant pieces of legislation to pass since the Sandusky case came to light. Most of the reform efforts have been put on hold pending the task force's findings and recommendations. Penn State moved ahead in creating its own Center for the Protection of Children at the Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. It plans a national conference later this month on child abuse prevention. (Officials at PSU declined our invitation for someone at the Center to appear on the program.) The NCAA levied a historic $60 million fine against PSU and earmarked the proceeds to fund programs against child abuse around the country, although just 25% of the money will stay in Pennsylvania.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on the Sandusky sentence and the continuing need to safeguard our children from sexual predators. Call in live Thursday at 8 p.m. to 1-800-729-7532, email firstname.lastname@example.org, post a comment here or to Facebook, or send us a question or comment on Twitter.
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