Figures don't lie, but...
Considering only raw statistics, Pennsylvania's protection of children against abuse seems impressive. According to the Protect Our Children Committee, Pennsylvania in 2011 had 1.2 abuse victims per 1,000 children, whereas the national rate was 9.1 per 1,000.
That rate is woefully misleading, however, because Pennsylvania's legal definition of child abuse is far narrower than those in most other states. Pennsylvania law requires evidence of "serious" physical, mental or sexual abuse. Most other state laws do not include that modifier, which goes a long way toward explaining the higher national rate.
Remarkably, two years after the explosive revelation of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal and the pontification about protecting children that it produced among politicians, the Legislature has not yet reformed the law.
The Senate has a chance to correct that before the General Assembly recesses for the year.
This summer the House approved a package of six bills to improve protection. A key bill would eliminate the "serious" modifier from the definition of abuse and expand it to include some specific conduct. Even more important, it vastly would expand the list of those who are required to report child abuse - a flaw in the current law that was exposed by the Sandusky case.
Several Senate committees this week approved the six bills. Senate leaders should ensure that they get floor votes before the Christmas recess.