Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – Attorney General Hector Balderas called on legislators Wednesday to fix an “ugly blind spot” in New Mexico’s law and strengthen the requirements to report child abuse.
In a 20-minute speech to the Legislature, he also outlined several other measures that he said could help prosecutors fight child abuse and improve public safety.
Balderas, a Democrat and former lawmaker himself, said state law now requires reporting when a parent or guardian is suspected of abusing a child.
But “if there’s a school coach, a priest or a teacher, it’s simply fallen through the cracks,” Balderas said.
The Journal this year outlined how one teacher, Gary Gregor, was able to continue working with students even after he was suspected of child abuse at a school in Santa Fe. He was eventually convicted of sexual abuse of elementary students in Española.
A state law on child abuse doesn’t specifically require schools to report abuse of students by teachers to law enforcement.
Balderas described the legal loophole as an “ugly blind spot” the state should address.
Balderas on Wednesday also spoke in favor of a number of other anti-crime proposals, including more stringent penalties for people who abuse children with Down syndrome or similar conditions. He also urged passage of legislation expanding the types of crimes that require registration as a sex offender, establishing a team to review child abuse deaths and lifting the time limits for prosecuting certain crimes against children.
“We are all tired of the statistics; we’re tired of the headlines; we’re tired of the tragedies,” Balderas said. “We’re tired of asking why, and how this could have been prevented.”
The New Mexico House and Senate often gather for joint sessions every other year to hear from top elected officials, including U.S. senators and representatives and the state attorney general.
Balderas brought crime victims and others with him on Wednesday as he addressed lawmakers.