Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse for PTA Volunteers
by Sally FitzGerald on 7/5/2012

 

Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse

The 2012 Criminal Justice Reform Act contains a provision that all employees and volunteers of schools, hospitals, and non profits working directly with children are now mandatory reporters.

What does that mean?

Very simply, if you see or hear of any indication that a child is being abused, you are required to report it to the designated person within your building.

PTA spends thousands of hours each week in schools, so PTA volunteers are included in this mandate.

So also are those chaperoning field trips, volunteering with athletic associations, drama boosters, music club boosters, and you name it. 

What are the tools for making this report?

Educators are already required to report suspected child abuse. School systems are already training their educators on an annual basis about this responsibility, what to look and listen for, and what to do with that information. Classified employees and volunteers will be added onto this system.

Oral reports are to be made within 24 hours. We recommend you make that report to the designated person in your school before you leave the building. The designated person will then notify the authorities which may ask for a written report. Presumably, you will then be asked to write your report within the next 48 hours.

How will volunteers be trained?

The school system will probably provide the training. They have to do so for their educators now, and will have to add their non educator employees. So adding the volunteers will be merely an extension of that awareness.

Each local school system will have to decide what and when. PTA needs to simply ask the principal and the superintendent what they intend to do.

It is possible that one will have to sign an assurance that the training has been received and the legal requirement to report has been conveyed. This protects the school system and commits the volunteer.

PTA will not be doing any training. The local school system has a structure already in place, and PTA and other volunteers will now be included.

What are the penalties of not reporting suspected child abuse?

The penalty, if convicted, is a misdemeanor which has a maximum fine of $1000 and a year in jail. However, the requirement to convict is to prove a negative, that is ‘the volunteer knew and did NOT report’. PTA suspects there will be very few convictions, and for those that occur, community service is the most likely penalty.

Should PTA volunteers feel threatened by this requirement?

No. This is similar to reporting that a child has thrown up, is complaining of a headache, or has fallen from some playground equipment. PTA volunteers do that now. There is now just one more thing we have to be sure to tell someone about.

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