Unfortunately, there are situations where children are abused or maltreated at home. No matter if it is by a parent, a parent’s significant other, a family member, or caretaker, school districts do all that they can to ensure that they identify and report the abuse and maltreatment of a child. Furthermore, schools train their officials, which include teachers to identify the signs of an abused child.
Certain school officials are deemed “mandated reporters” when it comes to suspecting, identifying, and reporting the abuse of an abused, or maltreated child. These mandated reporters include teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, social workers, school nurses, administrators, or other personnel who are required to hold a teaching or administrative license (Soc. Serv. Law § 413; Matter of Kimberly S.M v. Bradford Cent. Sch., 226 A.D2d 85 (4th Dep’t 1996); Diana G-D v. Bedford CSD, 33 Misc.3d 970 (Sup. Ct. Westchester Cnty. 2011), aff’d, 104 A.D.3d 805 (2d Dep’t 2013)).
Mandated reporters must walk on thin ice when considering reporting a case of suspected child abuse. Though the identity of the person or persons making a report of child abuse is kept strictly confidential (Deleon v. Putnam Valley Bd. of Educ., 228 F.R.D 213 (2005)), if a person makes a report that is not in good faith, they may be liable for damages from the poor report (Soc. Serb. Law § 419; Cox v. Warwick Valley CSD, 654 F.3d 267 (2s Cir. 2011); Biondo v. Ossing UFSD, 66 A.D.3d 725 (2d Dep’t 2009)). In addition, it is a crime to knowingly file a false claim of child abuse or maltreatment to the State Central Register (Penal Law §240.50(4)(a)). The “other side of the coin”, is that the Social Services Law provides legal penalties for schools or school officials who fail to report cases of suspected child abuse, which include a liability for damaged caused by the ignorance (Soc. Serv. Law § 420).
School districts have a responsibility to provide assistance, information, and whatever else Child Protective Services (CPS) needs to carry out a thorough investigation (Soc. Serv. Law § 425). This includes allowing CPS to access relevant records, as well as interviewing the child on his or her own, separate from parents, family, or other household members where the alleged abuse or maltreatment is occurring (18 NYCRR § 432.3(i); 53:38, though school personnel may have observed interview.
It is the duty of every school district to establish and maintain a training program for all current and new school employees regarding its mandated policies and procedures. These programs make school officials aware of the mandatory reporting of cases of suspected child abuse or maltreatment (§3209-a). New York Law subjects school districts to liability if they fail to provide adequate training to their officials (Biondo v. Ossining UFSD, 66 A.D.3d 725 (2d Dep’t 2009)).
In addition, child abuse or the maltreatment of a child may also include the child living in the presence of an illegal methamphetamine laboratory. School districts that employ mandated reporters, who, in the normality of their employment, visit children’s homes, must provide all current, and new employees adequate training on recognizing the signs of an illegal meth lab (Soc. Serv. Law § 413)).
Because children often do not speak out on their own abuse, or maltreatment, school districts provide adequate training to their employees, and are held to strict laws to identify and accurately report when a child shows the signs congruent to abuse.
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