Two areas of law prescribe specific procedures as to who must report suspected child abuse to whom and under what circumstances.
Social Services Law
School officials (including teachers, teaching assistants, school nurses, school guidance counselors, school psychologists, school social workers , administrators, and school board members) are considered mandated reporters and are required to report when:
1. They have reasonable cause to suspect that a child coming before them in their professional or official capacity is abused or maltreated; or
2. If the parent, guardian, custodian or other person legally responsible for the child comes before them in their professional or official capacity and states from personal knowledge facts, conditions or circumstances which, if correct, would render the child an abused or maltreated child.
If either condition is met, the mandated reporter must report their concerns immediately by telephone to the New York State Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR). Oral reports to the hotline must be followed within 48 hours by a written report on Form LDSS-2221A to the local Child Protective Services (CPS). A copy of this mandated reporter form can be obtained by contacting your local CPS office, or accessing the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) website at www.ocfs.state.ny.us and clicking on “Forms” and “LDSS-2221A” links. Be sure to ask the SCR specialist for the “Call I.D.” number assigned to the report you have made.
After making the report to the SCR you must immediately notify the “person in charge” of the school that you have made a report. This notification should be made in a manner that can be verified (e.g. e-mail). Provide them with the “Call I.D.” you were given by the SCR specialist. The person in charge of the school may not prevent you from making a report and the law designates the person in charge of the institution as responsible for all subsequent follow up administration necessitated by the report.
It is important to note that the mandated reporter must make the initial report to SCR and CPS. Reporting it only to the person in charge of the school or institution is not acceptable under the law.
Example Indicators of Abuse (examples only; for more detail see your school district administrator or your NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist):
Physical Indicators may include: bruises, welts or bite marks; burns or rope burns; trouble walking or sitting; pain, itching in genital area. Behavioral Indicators may include: being wary of contacts with parents or other adults; behavior extremes (aggressive, withdrawn); habit disorders; manifestations of low esteem.
Note, however, that an absence of physical or behavioral indicators is not necessarily proof of an absence of abuse.
Under Social Services Law parents are not to be notified by the reporter or the district.
Education Law requires school employees to report allegations of child abuse in an educational setting. “Educational setting” is defined as school buildings and grounds, school district buildings and grounds, vehicles used to provide transportation of students, sites of field trips, sites of extracurricular and co-curricular activities, and any other location where direct contact between employee or volunteer and the student could have taken place. The law establishes a reporting process that must be followed .
Duties of Employees
The law imposes reporting requirements on teachers, teaching assistants, school nurses, school guidance counselors, school psychologists, school social workers , administrators, school board members and all other school personnel required to hold a teaching or administrative license or certificate .
When these employees either witness or receive an allegation of child abuse by an employee or volunteer in an educational setting , they must take the following steps:
a) Upon receipt of an oral or written allegation of child abuse in an educational setting, the employee must promptly complete the “Child Abuse in an Educational Setting” report form .
b) Upon completion of the report form, the employee must personally deliver it to the school building administrator of the school in which the child abuse allegedly occurred.
c) If the allegation(s) involves a child who was allegedly abused by an employee or a volunteer of a school in another school district, the employee must promptly forward the report form to the superintendent of schools of the school district of attendance and the school district where the abuse allegedly occurred.
Duties of School Building Administrators and Superintendent
In all cases, upon receipt of a report form, the school building administrator and superintendent must review the form and determine if there is reasonable suspicion to believe that an act of child abuse, as defined by law, has occurred, and if additional steps must be taken, which differ depending upon the individual who has made the allegation (child, parent, other person).
However, the procedures are all variations on the following theme:
a) Promptly notify the parent of the child that an allegation of child abuse in an educational setting has been made.
b) Promptly provide the parent with the written statement setting forth parental rights, responsibilities and procedures prepared in accordance with the Commissioner’s regulations. Promptly provide a copy of the completed report to the superintendent.
c) Ascertain from the reporting employee the source and
basis for the allegation and complete that portion of the report form .
d) Promptly provide a copy of the completed report form to the superintendent .
e) Promptly forward a copy of the completed report form to the appropriate law enforcement authorities . The report to law enforcement may not be delayed by reason of inability to contact the superintendent.
In all cases where a completed report is forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement authorities, and the employee or volunteer alleged to have committed an act of child abuse holds a certification or license issued by the Department, the superintendent must also refer such report to the Commissioner of Education.
The requirements set forth within the law are mandatory. Willful failure of an employee to prepare and submit a report form as required by the law is a Class A misdemeanor . The law also provides that a willful failure of a school building administrator or superintendent to forward a copy of the report form to the appropriate law enforcement authority is a Class A misdemeanor. In addition, a school building administrator or a superintendent can be subject to a fine of $5,000 and imprisonment for one year for failure to forward a copy of the completed report form to the appropriate law enforcement authorities.
Education law requires that school districts must establish and implement, on an ongoing basis, a training program for all current and new school officials regarding the mandatory reporting policies and procedures established pursuant to the law.