Dover, DE – Governor Jack Markell announced today that he has named Widener University School of Law Associate Provost and Dean Linda L. Ammons, Esquire to lead an independent review into the State’s statutory and administrative procedures governing child abuse and exploitation, in the wake of the Lewes pediatrician being accused of sexually assaulting children in his care.
Markell was joined by Senator Brian Bushweller, Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and Representative Larry Mitchell, Chair of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee to call for the review to examine where critical improvements are necessary.
“The bottom line is that the system failed these children. I am asking Dean Ammons to take an independent look at why this systemic failure occurred. I am asking that she make recommendations that will foster a child protection community of collaboration and accountability, so that we can make the necessary improvements to protect our children from predators,” Markell said. “This situation demands tough questions and real answers. Together, we intend to get them.”
Dean Ammons is expected to consult with the Attorney General, recognized experts in criminal justice, sexual assault and child protection to assist her in her review, as well as look at best practices in formulating her recommendations.
Dean Ammons is the seventh dean of Widener Law and the first woman and first African-American person to lead the state’s only law school. An accomplished lawyer, professor and administrator, she came to Widener in July 2006 from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland, Ohio, where she was associate dean and professor of law. Her primary area of expertise is administrative law, which involves the operation of government and regulatory agencies.
Dean Ammons has a wealth of administrative and state-agency experience. She served as executive assistant to former Ohio Gov. Richard F. Celeste from 1988 to 1991, a job in which she oversaw criminal justice policy for the governor and served as his point person on state-prison issues. She served on the Ohio Supreme Court Futures Commission, which worked to improve the court system, and co-chaired for two years the American Bar Association National Institute on Defending Battered Women in Criminal Cases.
“I have agreed to undertake this review at Gov. Markell’s request because it presents an opportunity to help improve a system that cannot leave its children – its most vulnerable citizens – without adequate protections,” Dean Ammons said. “This call to public service is in keeping with our core values at Widener, where students are encouraged to use their educations and talents in ways that contribute to the communities we serve, in order to make them better places. I appreciate the confidence Gov. Markell has shown by asking me to lead this review and I welcome the chance to help make the First State safer, particularly for children.”
Dean Ammons will undertake a comprehensive review of the State’s policies and procedures and make recommendations to improve the administrative handling of child abuse and sexual exploitation cases focused on reducing child trauma, enhancing the effectiveness of administrative action, and reforming state laws and regulations to meet these objectives.
Markell made clear that Dean Ammons’ review must not and will not jeopardize the current prosecution in the Lewes pediatrician case or the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation of whether anyone violated the current reporting requirements under the existing statutory scheme.
“Not only must we ensure a successful prosecution in this case, we must have, and Dean Ammons will help provide, real answers to how and why the system failed and a roadmap to protect our children going forward,” Markell said. “While the Attorney General will prosecute the laws that were broken, this independent review will help decide whether we have the right laws, processes and procedures in place for the handling of future child abuse and sexual exploitation cases.”
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden supports the State’s independent review.
“I support the Governor’s independent review. In the meantime, my office will continue to pursue Dr. Bradley to the fullest extent of the law and get to the bottom of who may have violated Delaware’s current reporting requirements and take whatever action is necessary. There must be accountability.” Biden said.
Issues to be addressed in the independent review include but are not limited to:
• Professional reporting requirements for suspected incidents of misconduct and the enforcement thereof;
Professional licensing requirements, procedures and enforcement, including comprehensive background checks and procedures for on-going review;
• Medical standards and protocols around proper pediatric care and the publication thereof to ensure that doctors, medical staff and parents have clear guidance;
• The sufficiency of outreach efforts regarding reporting requirements, so that those with legal obligations to report questionable behavior do so;
• Proper communication and coordination between law enforcement agencies, professional regulators and the medical community; and
• Ensuring that adequate services are provided for the protection and treatment of children suspected of being sexually abused in order to protect them from further harm.
At the conclusion of the independent review, Dean Ammons will issue a final report to the Governor’s Office, the Senate Public Safety Committee and the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
According to Senator Bushweller, “Protecting children, and indeed all patients, needs to be our first priority and I support the Governor’s decision to review this matter. We need a broad-based review of all facets of this horrendous situation. I look forward to considering the results and recommendations of Dean Ammons’ independent review.”
Representative Mitchell stated, “It is imperative that we take a top-down and independent look at where the system failed these children, and make the necessary improvements to ensure that something like this never happens again. Dean Ammons is an accomplished individual who is well-suited to undertake such an important review.”