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Minn. House could OK Jacob's Law today

Sarah Guggisberg is championing "Jacob's Law" in the Minnesota Legislature.

CLARA CITY -- With her 12-year-old son Jacob at her side, Sarah Guggisberg is headed to the Capitol today to witness history in the making.

Guggisberg is hopeful that the state House of Representatives will follow the lead of the Senate and ap-prove the legislation known as Jacob's Law. It assures that both parents are notified when a child is the possible victim of neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse.

The Senate unanimously approved the legislation Wednesday. Guggisberg said the bill should reach the floor of the House for a vote today.

It could be on Gov. Mark Dayton's desk for a signature as early as Tuesday, she said.

Guggisberg learned in 2009 that her son, Jacob, had been abused by a neighbor while staying with her ex-husband in Lyon County. The abuse had occurred in 2005.

She said her ex-husband had been informed about the suspected abuse at the time, but she had not been told. It was only when Jacob attempted suicide four years later that she learned what had happened.

Had she known, she would have made certain her son received the therapy he needed.

Guggisberg met in October with Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, about introducing legislation to assure that both parents are notified. At the time, she said Vogel warned her that it could take as long as three years to gain legislative approval. She told him she was prepared to go the distance.

"I am very surprised at how fast it went,'' she said. "I am not surprised that it was accepted.''

She noted that her shocking story made a compelling argument for what she described as commonsense legislation. She suspects that the original legislation requiring only that one parent be notified was drafted long ago when divorce was not as common as today.

Guggisberg said her son is probably too young to appreciate the full significance of what he will be witnessing, but some day he will know: She has been keeping all of the many letters and other notes of encouragement from all over the county for him to see when he is older. She also hopes to see similar legislation enacted in other states.

While there is a bittersweet quality to seeing the law passed -- it comes years too late to help her son -- Guggisberg said she is very excited to see Jacob's Law so close to final approval.

"It's a good feeling to know that our pain can maybe prevent somebody else's pain,'' she said.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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