By: State Senator Steve Baddour – September, 2011
For nearly a year, it was difficult to escape the media coverage surrounding the disappearance and death of two year old Caylee Anthony. Tens of thousands followed the ensuing trial which, as we all know, resulted in a not-guilty verdict for her mother, Casey Anthony. Regardless whether you believe she was guilty or not, the case highlighted a glaring loophole in our state laws.
It turns out that Massachusetts, like nearly every other state, does not have a requirement that parents or guardians report a missing child to the police or other authorities. This is unacceptable and needs to be changed.
Although Massachusetts regularly ranks as a state with the most progressive child safety laws, there is always room for improvement. During my tenure as a State Senator, I have devoted considerable attention to advancing the health and safety of our children. In the past few years, I have been the author or main co-sponsor of nearly every piece of legislation aimed at improving child welfare, including: the new booster seat requirement; the Junior Operator law governing drivers licenses of operators under age 18; a law prohibiting junior operators from using cell phones while driving; and a student athlete safety bill that requires students, parents and coaches to be trained in identifying the signs of concussion and requires medical clearance for those athletes suspected of having a concussion. I am also proud of my work on Jessica’s Law, Melanie’s Law and Megan’s law to help protect children from sexual predators and drunk drivers and most recently, my involvement in legislation to stop the hideous crime of human trafficking. However, it’s clear we still need to do more.
I strongly support creating new penalties for failing to report a missing child to police in a timely manner and increasing penalties for intentionally misleading or lying to law enforcement during a search for a missing child. I intend to work closely with my colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as law enforcement agencies across the Commonwealth, to ensure that policies concerning reporting missing children are up-to-date and as strong as possible.
It is our responsibility to ensure that every missing child is returned to safety as quickly as possible, and that law enforcement has the proper tools available to punish those who are responsible for impeding the investigation of a missing child, whether it be by failing to report a missing child or misleading police during their investigation. I will work hard to ensure that these laws are updated and include harsh penalties for those who refuse to assist in locating a missing child. Our children deserve no less.