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Legislator: Mandatory reporting proposal to lose key clause

File photo - Salem-Keizer School District

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Major changes are in the works for a controversial proposal that would have changed mandatory abuse reporting requirements in Oregon and would have allowed school officials and others not to report sex between under-age people they discovered.

The measure followed controversy surrounding reports in 2017 that teachers in Oregon's Salem-Keizer school district were instructed to report sexually active students to state authorities.

Instead of putting the measure to a vote of the full House, representatives sent the proposal back to committee, where legislators amended it, stripping key provisions surrounding the age limits at the heart of the controversy. Representatives on the House Rules panel unanimously approved the amendment and sent the bill back to the full House.

"It will be back on floor tomorrow without any language related to child abuse reporting," said Sen. Sara Gelser, the measure's sponsor.

The proposal was set to add a clause to mandatory abuse reporting rules in the state: in its original form, it proposed exempting sexual intercourse between minors, provided neither party was coerced or forced into the act, the age difference between the two parties was three years or less, and the parties fell within a specified age range.

Under state law, officials including school employees, firefighters and police, and doctors and other medical staff are required to report any abuse they discover or hear about. The language in the bill would have exempted otherwise willful underage sex from the definition of abuse.

The original bill had specified that children and young adults between age 12 and 21 should be exempted, but other lawmakers sought to shift the lower limit upward, to age 14. Gelser objected to the change.

Removing the reporting requirement from the bill leaves in clauses related to abuse investigations.

Legislators in 2017 authorized law enforcement agencies to conduct child abuse investigations on school campuses, creating confusion over school officials' responsibilities. This year's proposal clarifies that district officials must provide interview space for officials to speak with students privately, and must keep any investigation private and off students' academic records.

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