Child Abuse in an Educational Setting

 

Child Abuse is an unfortunate, malicious act against children that can leave severe emotional scars. These mental and emotional scars can last into adulthood, and can lead to other issues later in life. Schools take active steps in identifying and reporting child abuse, while also requiring that all teachers, and other school officials are properly trained to identify abuse, as well as report abuse if they see the signs. However, there are unfortunate instances where this abuse occurs at a child’s school. In this instance, it’s important to know the laws set in place to protect children from abusers in the education setting.

 

Education Law requires that school districts immediately report to local authorities any allegations of child abuse in the educational setting by one of their employees (Article 23-B). Education Law defines child abuse as the intentional or reckless infliction of physical injury, serious physical injury, or death, as well as conduct that creates a substantial risk of such injuries or death. Sexual abused as defined under sections 130 and 263 of the Penal Law, and the dissemination of or attempts to disseminate obscene materials to minors under article 235 of the Penal Law (§1125(1),(9)). The term “educational setting” refers to the above occurring in the buildings and on the grounds of a public school district. Vehicles, field trip locations, extracurricular activities, and any other location where direct contact between students and employees or volunteers occurs, is considered the educational setting (§1125(5)).

 

Teachers, school nurses, guidance counselors, and those of the like who are required to hold a teaching or administrative license, have a legal obligation to promptly file a written report with the school principal upon the receipt of any type of written or oral allegation (§1126(1)). Though the law does not define the time period of “promptly”, it is a given that an abuse allegation should be reported as soon as possible to prevent further abuse. 

 

Furthermore, a failure to report child abuse in the educational setting is a class A misdemeanor. Failure to contact law enforcement is allow punishable by a civil fine of up to $5,000 (§1129). Even if the accused agrees to resign from his or her position, the school is not excused from reporting this abuse to local authorities. Any type of agreement that extinguishes the accuser from being reported in return for their resignation is a class E felony and is also punishable by a civil penalty up to $20,000 (§ 1131(2)).

 

Knowing the severity of the impacts that abuse has on children, as well as the penalties for failing to report it in the educational setting, schools take such an offense, as well as the reporting of abuse very seriously. The law also requires them to do so. School districts are required to establish and implement on an ongoing basis, a training program that educates licensed or certified school officials on the laws surrounding child abuse in an educational setting. This program must include, at minimum:

 

  • A training that informs school personnel their legal duties.
  • Information on the confidentiality of records.
  • The penalties for a failure to comply with the law.
  • Notification by the district attorney of the results of investigations.
  • Information of actions taken upon conviction of a licensed employee.
  • The prohibition against silent resignations.

 

Education Law leaves no room for child abuse in the education setting. It requires licensed and certified employees to report allegations immediately, and leaves no leeway for anyone accused to escape silently. Taking active steps to prevent, identify, and report child abuse in the education setting, school districts do their best to ensure that children remain safe on their grounds. 

 

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Managing Attorney

Angel A. Castro, III, Esq.

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10004 

 

 

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