- Adrian's Act would require adults to report child abuse they witness in a home where they live
- Bill would not change homeschooling laws or regulations
- Kansas Dept. for Children and Families supports bill
Kansas lawmakers are considering major changes to regulations for reporting abuse after a child was tortured to death by his parents despite his abuse being reported to state officials.
On Tuesday, a Kansas House committee held a hearing at The Capitol for Adrian's Act.
Read the first version of the bill below:
Adrian Jones's grandmother, Judy Conway, and Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree gave testimony at the hearing to show support for the bill.
7-year-old Adrian's father and stepmother killed him in 2015 after abusing him for months.
The 41 Action News Investigators uncovered there was another adult living in the home at the time Adrian was being tortured. He was never charged due to a lack of evidence that he had participated in the abuse. Under the current state law, it's not a crime to witness child abuse and not report it.
Adrian's Act would hold adults in similar situations criminally accountable, something Adrian's grandmother believes could have saved her grandchild's life.
"This is a big step forward," Conway said. "It may only be a little part of protecting children but I think it's a start."
Rep. Louis Ruiz introduced the bill in early May after talking with the 41 Action News Investigators about the case.
"The goal of this bill was to advocate for children who have no voice," Ruiz said.
While Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree said he's in favor of the bill, he did express concerns for adults who may also be victims of domestic abuse. Dupree said he would not seek charges against additional victims of abuse who don't report.
Dupree also wants lawmakers to expand Adrian's Act to increase oversight for children who are homeschooled.
"Sadly, our system has been used in a negative way by criminals," Dupree said. "They learn the law, they adapt to the law and then you have an Adrian Jones."
Adrian and his siblings were isolated by their parents under the guise of being homeschooled. In Kansas, a parent is required to register online if they wish to homeschool their children, but no follow-up is required.
"I believe this situation occurred because the child was only seen by his abusers," Dupree said.
The D.A. also said he wants children who are homeschooled to be seen at least once a year by an educator to make sure the child is learning and to rule out any safety concerns. While some parents, who homeschool their children strongly oppose additional oversight, Dupree said it's the only way to ensure a child's safety.
"The bottom line is, we are giving a voice to those who don't have a voice," Dupree said. "I think if we focus on the safety of our babies in our state we can move past our differences."
Adrian's grandmother also wants more oversight when it comes to homeschools.
"I just want adults to be more responsible," Conway said. "We as adults, at all costs, should protect these children."
Cynthia Armstrong, spokeswoman for the Department for Children and Families, also attended the hearing. She told lawmakers she would be in favor of Adrian's Act.
"DCF certainly always supports adding mandated reporters," Armstrong said. "I think there also needs to be some consideration as to training and messaging to those folks so they are aware that this is now a requirement by statute."
It's not clear if or when Adrian's Act will pass or if any changes will be made to it.
"I think this bill assists in getting us where we need to go," Dupree said. "I just believe the bill should not stop here."