Bipartisan Bills Hold Child Abusers Accountable
LANSING — State Reps. Kevin Hertel (D-St. Clair Shores), Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw), and Sarah Lightner (R-Springport), along with Sens. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing), Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.) and Dr. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek) have introduced a package of bills collectively known as ‘Wyatt’s Law’ that would create and maintain a registry for those convicted of child abuse.
Inspiration for the bills came when the mother of Wyatt, the bill’s namesake, approached the Legislature following the abuse of her one-year-old son at the hands of his father’s girlfriend. The mother had petitioned for sole custody due to unease about the father’s new girlfriend, but there was no way for her to check to see if the woman was a danger to her son. Wyatt suffered Shaken Baby Syndrome at the hands of this girlfriend, and his mother didn’t learn until it was too late that the woman had two prior convictions for child abuse.
“Parents deserve to know who they are leaving their child with,” said Rep. Hertel, who represents the community where this incident occurred. “With a searchable database, we can give other parents access to important information they should have. I believe this incident would never have happened had Wyatt’s mother been able to access the conviction information for free.”
“This story strikes you to your core,” Rep. Lightner said. “I’m looking forward to seeing these bills passed so that we have another layer of protection for our children who depend on us to take care of them.”
Rep. Guerra echoed the importance of this legislation.
“If someone has stood trial and been convicted of child abuse, there need to be consequences,” she said. “We have to hold people accountable. No parent should ever be left feeling like they ‘should have done more.’”
Sen. Lucido agreed.
“After spending nearly 30 years in a courtroom, I have seen all too often how many preventable injuries and deaths occurred because of sheer lack of information,” Sen. Lucido said. “I am proud to step up and take part in this effort.”
Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr., a father of four, is confident in the support the legislation has.
“I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass Wyatt’s Law,” Sen. Hertel said. “We have a genuine opportunity to help protect kids with this legislation, and there is nothing more important.”
Sen. Bizon concurred on the importance of working across the aisle.
“I think seeing the bipartisan sponsorship of this package helps people see how crucial it is,” Sen. Bizon said. “Any parent or grandparent will tell you they use their intuition in making childcare decisions, and this registry helps give them peace of mind if something doesn’t seem right.”