Laws on Unlawful Surveillance, Sex Offenders, Child Abuse Reporters and Maternal Depression Change in NY

By Assemblyman Will Barclay
There have been a number of new laws signed and chaptered in New York in recent weeks. I wanted to update readers on just a few involving mandated reporters, unlawful surveillance, screening of volunteer firefighters and ambulance personnel, and maternal depression. I was happy to support all in the Assembly this session.

Coaches are mandated reporters

There are several professions in New York which are required to report child abuse, maltreatment, or negligence pursuant to social services law. A bill recently signed into law adds school coaches to this list. I supported this in the Assembly. School coaches are often in a position to observe children for signs of abuse because of close relationships that often develops between coaches and players. Coaches who are not already mandated reporters will need to undergo two hours of training regarding identifying and reporting child abuse and maltreatment. This law will become effective July 1, 2015.

Unlawful Surveillance Crimes Enhanced

With virtually everyone carrying some kind of smart phone with the ability to take and share images, it’s more and more important that we update our laws to protect our right to privacy.  A bill signed into law earlier this month amends the penal law in relation to unlawful surveillance. I was pleased to co-sponsor this important legislation in the Assembly. This law is in response to a case that occurred in Clarkstown, where a woman had a compromising image posted on the internet by a person from a previous relationship. The picture, sexual in nature, was purposely posted on the internet to humiliate her. When law enforcement investigated this case, they determined they were unable to charge the person who posted the image with unlawful surveillance in the second degree due to how the law was currently defined. To be charged with this crime, the victim’s private parts must be visible in the image. In this case, these areas were not exposed in the image. Clearly, this image was taken during a private moment and the victim has a right to privacy. The legislation that was recently enacted makes the necessary corrections to the law so that prosecution can occur in situations like these.

Screening Volunteer Firefighters for Sex Offenses

A new law requires volunteer fire and ambulance companies to determine whether new applicants or transferees are registered sex offenders. Already, all applicants must undergo a background check. This new law requires volunteer fire and ambulance companies determine if an applicant or transferee has been convicted of a sex offense. It also gives local fire companies the ability to deny membership to an individual who has been required to register as a sex offender.  Firefighters do much more than just respond to fires or emergencies. Many fire companies promote fire education and safety in schools as well as host community events where children are present. Like police officers, firefighters are often promoted to children as people that they can trust. Considering that volunteers work in close proximity to children and families  it makes sense to add this conviction to the screening process.

Raising Awareness about Maternal Depression

While hospitals already inform new mothers about postpartum depression and shaken baby syndrome, a new law requires information be disseminated about maternal depression. This law requires the New York State Commissioner of Mental Health to provide definitions of what maternal depression is and how it varies from postpartum depression, as well as how patients can receive treatment. Leaflets and detailed information on the Department of Health’s website will also be published. According to the law, “maternal depression is broadly defined as a wide range of emotional and psychological reactions a woman may experience during pregnancy or after childbirth. These reactions may include, but are not limited to, feelings of despair or extreme guilt, prolonged sadness, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, extreme changes in appetite, and thoughts of suicide or of harming the baby. These reactions may occur without warning and may happen before, during, or immediately after childbirth, and continue into the infant’s first year of life.”

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