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Child Abuse Prevention Month: Spotlight on Mandated Reporter Requirements

Kathy Espinoza 4/10/2018
Kathy Espinoza

Protecting children from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse is among the highest moral obligations in our society. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and today, we highlight the role of mandated reporters in our schools, licensed day care centers and other institutions. Below are some of the questions and answers about the requirements mandated reporters must follow and how the law helps keep children safer.

What laws are in place to protect kids in schools?

School district employees who fail to report “reasonably suspicious” abuse incidents under mandated reporter laws are subject to criminal actions. A principal was recently convicted for failing to report suspicious activity of a teacher who molested several students.

Who are mandated reporters?

All school district employees are considered mandated reporters.  Essentially, teachers, counselors, coaches, instructional aides, certificated employees, teacher aides or assistants, nurses, administrators and classified employees such as clerical and custodial are all classified as mandated reporters. Community College employees, and administrators, whose duties bring them in contact with children on a regular basis, or who supervise employees who are in contact with children on a regular basis are also considered mandated reporters. A common example would be those employees and administrators who work within or supervise employees in a community college child development center, sports or science camps and summer programs with children under 18 years of age.

Why have mandated reporters failed to report suspicious activities?

Employees often anguish over making reports because the alleged abuser is someone they have known for years or might respect well such as a teacher, principal or coach. Some employees feel that district management may disregard their complaints, or that internal investigations are conducted with no negative findings and never reported.

What is a school district’s responsibility?

Prior to employment, anyone who is categorized as a mandated reporter must sign a statement that they have knowledge of the mandated reporter requirements. This statement must be provided by the employer. The statement must inform the person that he or she is a mandated reporter and inform the person of their legal reporting obligations. The signed statement should be retained by the employer and placed in the employee’s personnel file.

What are the mandated reporting requirements?

Mandated Reporting laws require reporting “immediately or as soon as is reasonably possible by telephone and transmit a written follow up report within 36 hours of receiving the information.” The report must be made to the police (not the school police) or Child Protective Services (CPS).

What if someone files a suspected abuse report, but it turns out to be a false incident?

A mandated reporter has immunity from civil and criminal liability, even if the report is incorrect, negligent, reckless, or intentionally false. Immunity applies even if the mandated reporter acquired the knowledge or reasonable suspicion outside of his or her professional capacity or outside the scope of employment. The best practice is to err on the side of caution and report.

What are the mandated reporters’ and the district’s responsibilities to maintain confidentiality?

Mandated reporters are held to the strictest standards of confidentiality. The required Suspected Child Abuse Report must be sent to your local Child Protective Services (CPS). The report must not be disclosed to anyone other than the local CPS or your local police or sheriff department (not the school police). Districts, and district employees, can be liable for negligent disclosure of the report.

How can mandated reporter training be provided to employees?

AB 1432, which was effective January 1, 2015, requires that all school districts, county offices of education (COEs), state special schools and diagnostic centers operated by the California Department of Education (CDE), and charter schools and their school personnel in California, provide training to employees on child abuse and neglect reporting.  In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1207 (Chapter 414, Statutes of 2015).  AB 1207 requires all licensed child day care providers, administrators, and employees of licensed child day care facilities to be trained regarding detecting and reporting child abuse and neglect.

Keenan SafeSchools has developed two courses to address Mandated Reporter training requirements within the education community.

  1. Mandated Reporter: Child Abuse & Neglect.  This training satisfies the requirements of AB1432 which mandates training within the first 6 weeks of school and upon new hire.  This is an annual requirement.
  1. Child Care Mandated Reporter. This training provides training for Child Care staff and satisfies the requirements of AB 1207.  This is an every 2 year requirement.

Child abuse prevention is nationally recognized each April, but we all need to be actively vigilant every day of the year to make schools and communities safer places for our kids to grow, thrive and succeed.