At the Helm: Is Calyee’s Law really necessary?
Written by Scott Graves, Pilot staff writer   
July 15, 2011 10:57 pm

 

Doesn’t it say something about the day and age we live in when a legislator has to propose a new law requiring parents, guardians and caretakers to report the death or disappearance of a child within 24 hours?

Sadly, yes.

Some say the proposed law is a knee-jerk reaction to a tragic situation, prompted by the case of Caylee Anthony, the Florida 2-year-old whose mother, Casey Anthony, was recently acquitted of murder but found guilty of lying to authorities about the child's whereabouts.

Caylee’s disappearance was reported to authorities by her grandparents in July 2008, about a month after the child had last been seen. Her badly decomposed body was discovered five months later.

At the time, people in many states were surprised to learn that it is not a felony to fail to report your child missing. Many authorities say it’s a well-established fact that when dealing with a missing child case every moment of delay weighs negatively in the life-or-death outcome.

So far, at least 16 states –including Florida – have proposed some version of a Caylee’s Law since the verdict, according to the Associated Press.

Oregon Rep. Shawn Lindsay (R-Hillsboro) has joined fellow lawmaker across the country. This week he announced he would introduce Caylee’s Law during the next Oregon legislative session in February.

In a press release, Lindsay said, “As a parent, there’s nothing more frightening than the loss or disappearance of a child. Unfortunately, recent events in Florida show some parents don’t share the same sense of urgency during such an emergency.  Caylee’s Law will help ensure that law enforcement is notified immediately so they can pursue justice for an innocent child.”

Lindsay said Caylee’s Law will impose penalties on parents, guardians and caretakers who fail to notify law enforcement of the death or disappearance of a child. He said the law will serve as an additional tool for law enforcement as they seek to locate a child and prosecute those who are responsible.

 “I am listening to the outpouring of phone calls and emails I have received urging the Legislature to adopt this important measure,” he said. “I agree that someday, Caylee’s Law may save the life of a child in Oregon. I look forward to bringing this bill to the Legislature in 2012.”

Oregon Sen Jeff Kruse has a different take.

“I have received a very large number of emails over the last few days with people being very upset about the result of the Florida murder case of Casey Anthony,” Kruse said in a statement.  “The common theme has been we should pass a law.  I would suggest we be very careful about such an immediate reaction to something happening over 3,000 miles from us.”

He added, “Many states will now be proposing to enact Caylee’s Law in one form or another. I know legislation has been proposed probably for the February session. I hope we take the time to make sure what will be proposed will not have any unintended consequences.

“Clearly criminal acts need to be dealt with appropriately and I would support measures to ensure justice. My cautionary concern deals with the potential increase in government involvement with families. With the passage of Senate Bill 909 we may have given the Governor the ability to control how we raise our children.  It is my belief the responsibility for raising children belongs with parents, especially in the pre-school years. This is an area we tread on lightly if at all.” 

The proposed Caylee’s Law has gone viral on the activist site Change.org. A petition on the website calls for a new law that would make it a felony to wait more than 24 hours to report a missing child, and a felony not to report the death of a child within one hour. More than a million people have electronically signed the petition.

Is this all a knee-jerk reaction?

Should a parent’s failure to call the authorities within the first hour of a child’s death be a felony?

Are there so many parents these days so unaware of their children’s whereabouts on a regular basis?

I asked a few friends what they thought about this issue.

One said, “Parents that really care will not need this law. Parents that don’t care will probably not be influenced by this law. They do live among us, unfortunately.”

Another said, “I think it’s pretty sad that a law even has to be made... what parent in their right mind wouldn’t report their child lost or missing soon after it was discovered? I guess if there are parents like Casey’s, then there needs to be one.”

A third said, “Amazing! One has to be very careful with knee jerks; they tend to kick us in the butt.”

What do you think?