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Mandated Reporters Vol. 100, part b

SAFER SCHOOLS NEWS-VOL. 100
Part b:


Mandated

Reporters
Principal, three teachers arrested for failure to report.

Alabama School Officials arrested for not reporting

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The need for this topic is in the news over and over.

  • 3 Robertson County administrators arrested for not reporting child sex abuse:  Read more…
  • A Principal & 3 Teachers were arrested in Alabama for not reporting child sex abuse:  Read more…

Mandated Reporters of child abuseThe first question to ask is: Who must report?

It is the law within every state that educators along with a host of other professions must report suspected abuse or neglect. Holding seminars in schools throughout the country, it is customary for Keys to ask the audience for a show of hands of all the Mandated Reporters present. It is amazing how many fail to raise their hands. It usually turns out that most have had a class on reporting and know they are Mandated Reporters and a few have not yet had that class. One of the surest bets is that if you hold any kind of license from a state board, or you work for an agency that is state licensed and part of your job has anything to do with children, you are a Mandated Reporter. If you are not, and you file a report that is OK and within guidelines. But if you are and fail to report because you did not know you should, you may find yourself standing with the four who were arrested discussed in Part A of this report

What should be reported?

Anything that causes a person to suspect that there has been a possibility of abuse or neglect should file a report. Unless your professional title contains words such as, “Child Abuse Investigator,” your role is to report your suspicions not to determine if they are valid. It is easy to say to yourself, “It is just one small bruise. Kids fall. I will just watch to see if there are more.” When you catch yourself rationalizing why you should not report, it probably means that you should report. Do not worry about how small it may be. What you report might be nothing or it might be another piece in a growing puzzle that investigators have been working on for some time. They have the training and the position to accept and reject information. Let them do their job. 

With whom should the report be file?

There is some variation among the states on this issue. Some have a special reporting agency often called Child Protective Services (CPS) or some variant of this title, to which all reports of potential child abuse must be sent. Others may specify either/or and include law enforcement agencies, prosecuting attorneys or other such agencies. Some states specify that abuse is only sent to CPS when it involves family members and if the abuser is not family the report must go to law enforcement. It is important for every person who works with or around children to know the requirements of the law within your state. It may not be the same as the state from which you just moved. 

What about School Policy?

This is an often asked question. It usually is formed something like this: “Our school policy is that all abuse reports are sent to the office and only the Principal can call CPS to file a formal report. Will this suffice for the law?” Keys’ answer is usually a series of questions: Which can get you fired, state law or school policy? Which can revoke your license to teach, law or school policy? Which can send you to prison, law or school policy? It usually becomes clear by answering these questions that if state law mandates that you report, you should report! Keys never tells anyone to violate school policy nor state law; therefore, when these are in conflict the individual must decide which course to take. 

What if I am wrong?

That is why your suspicions are investigated. If there is no abuse and the child is just accident prone or habitually lies about events, the professional investigators will uncover the truth. But what if you are right and do not report? How many more times should a child be abused before you will feel better about reporting? Should you be held responsible for suspecting and doing nothing? These questions should lead to the conclusion that reporting is the best option.

A second part of this issue is worry that CPS will be overworked if everyone calls every time they suspect anything. After dozens of interviews with CPS workers in many different states, there is a common response, “We had rather receive 100 calls that are not founded than miss one call that could save a child.”  

What should I look for?

Physical Abuse:

  • Abrasions
  • Bruises
  • Fractures
  • Lacerations
  • Bites
  • Burns
  • Head Injuries

Neglect:

  • Child appears malnourished
  • Child often dirty or inadequately dressed for weather
  • Home conditions are unsafe or unsanitary
  • Child often sleepy or hungry
  • Evidence of poor supervision
  • Lacking medical and dental care

Sexual Abuse:

  • Age inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Disclosure
  • Eating disorders
  • Injury/trauma unusual for age
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Stained/soiled/bloody underclothing
  • Compulsive masturbation
  • Drastic behavior changes
  • Enuresis/encopresis
  • Pregnancy
  • Sleeping disorders

Emotional Abuse:

  • Belittling
  • Constant family discord
  • Deprivation
  • Excessive verbal assaults
  • Parent/caregiver does not offer experiences providing feelings of being loved, wanted, secure, and worthy.
  • Unpredictability
  • Blaming
  • Constant negative moods
  • Double message communication
  • Inconsistency
  • Sarcasm
  • Threats
  • Screaming

Examples of who may be Mandated Reporters:

  • Animal control officers
  • Child protective services personnel
  • Clergy
  • District attorney investigators and inspectors
  • Evaluators
  • Film processors
  • Foster parents
  • Head Start teachers
  • Humane society employees
  • Marriage/family/child counselors
  • Paramedics
  • Physicians
  • Psychiatrists
  • Public health service employees
  • Recreational program staff
  • School district police and security officers
  • Teachers
  • Youth center employees
  • Child care providers
  • Child visitation monitors
  • Dentists
  • Emergency room personnel
  • Family support officers
  • Firefighters
  • Group home personnel
  • Health practitioners
  • Licensing workers
  • Nurses
  • Parole officers
  • Probation officers
  • Psychologists
  • Pupil personnel public and private schools
  • Residential care facilities
  • Social workers
  • Teacher aides/assistants/administrators
  • Volunteers are not mandated reporters

What to do?

Find and record the number to your state’s Hot Line for Child Abuse Reporting.  Keep it with you and call if in doubt call and ask if the circumstance you know should be reported.  They will tell you.  If you observe a crime in the form of abuse call law enforcement to rescue the child, then file the abuse report.  

Above all, do not delay for the sake of gathering more information. This will delay action being taken on behalf of the child and could lead to you being in trouble as the teachers and administrator above.

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