Gardenhire seeks change in law on reporting child abuse

Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, says legislators will be looking to change state law on child abuse reporting following dismissal of charges against the former basketball coach at Ooltewah High School, reports the Times-Free Press.

Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole dismissed four charges of failure to report child sexual abuse against Andre “Tank” Montgomery on Friday, saying that under current state law, the coach was not required to report the pool-cue rape of a freshman student to authorities.

Poole reminded people in the courtroom he must make decisions based on the law. In this case, he interpreted state law to mean that adults have a legal obligation to report sexual abuse of a child aged 13 to 17 only if it is committed by a member of the child’s household.

“Now, that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be a moral requirement to report,” Poole said.

He suggested it may be time for state lawmakers to clarify the intention and wording of the statute.

…(Gardenhire) said they have waited to get involved because of the pending criminal case. Now the legal case is over, local lawmakers plan to sit down with judges, attorneys and school officials to talk about to improve the statute.

“We want to come up with the best way to amend and strengthen [the current statute] to protect children,” he said. “And obviously hold anybody in the future accountable for not doing the right thing.”

…Although the charges were dropped, Montgomery and the Hamilton County Board of Education still face two federal lawsuits filed in connection with the rape.

Montgomery’s attorney, Curtis Bowe, said it has been a long year of emotion and stress for Montgomery and his family.…Montgomery commended Poole’s interpretation of the law, and said the youths responsible for the rape have been held accountable. “Mr. Montgomery is not responsible,” Bowe said.

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