Md. bill would require reporting threats to kids

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A proposed bill in Maryland would make reporting not just abuse, but threats of abuse, mandatory for those duty-bound to do so.

In 2014, a Cheverly woman called police, saying she was worried about the mental state of her daughter, Sonya Spoon, a mother of two toddlers.

Police responded, and Spoon was taken to a hospital for evaluation. Within a week, she was released.

Prosecutors say she later killed her children, 3-year-old Kayla and 1-year-old Ayden.

The problem in this case, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said, wasn’t a shortcoming of police, medical staff or social workers — it was a shortcoming in the law.

At a hearing in Annapolis before the House Judiciary Committee, Alsobrooks testified in favor of a bill that might prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Under HB 1321, the people who are duty-bound to report suspected abuse would also be required to report threats.

Currently, suspected child abuse — an actual act of abuse — must be reported by police, social workers, teachers and health care workers. They are called “mandatory reporters” under the law.

But that requirement is restricted to suspected actions, not statements threatening abuse.

In the Spoon case, the mother had told medical professionals she was thinking of harming her children, but those professionals didn’t report those statements to social services agencies, because they weren’t required to do so.

Alsobrooks told the committee members that each year, her office goes to Annapolis to ask for the tools to fight crime, explaining that in Prince George’s County, there were 20 domestic-related homicides in a single year.

“So, we come before you today to ask for another tool, but not one that will help reduce crime. Today we are asking for one that will help us prevent it, help us get to our families and intervene before the crime occurs and save the lives of our children.”

Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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