Mandatory Reporting High School

Report
John W. Parker
Cascade County Attorney
Detective Cory Reeves
Great Falls Police Department
Tracy Hemry
Department of Public Health and Human Services

1. To Explain and Clarify Your Legal Duty to
Report Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect

2. To Distinguish Mandatory Reporting of
Child Abuse and Neglect from the Parallel
Duty to Report Crimes Committed in Schools

3. To Analyze Hypothetical Cases in Order to
Develop Shared Understandings of the Law

As a teacher, you are constantly focused on
achieving education targets and a host of
other issues. You hardly have time for a
break.

As a counselor, you are immersed a whole
range of challenges your students are facing.

As a food service worker, you have the daily
logistical challenge of preparing several
hundred nutritious meals.

As an engineer, you have to keep the building
clean and orderly and ensure heating systems
are running properly.

The point is, we understand your plate is
already full before we even get to the issue of
mandatory reporting of child abuse.

We want to start this discussion in the
context of the realities of your job.

We understand many of the pressures you
face on a daily basis.

The incidence of severe child abuse in our
community has risen dramatically in recent
years

Four child homicides in the past three and a
half years

Incidents of infants with broken ribs, toddlers
with broken femurs, other physical and
sexual abuse—inflicted by adult caregivers

Reported incidents of neglect in our
community have also risen.

Youth in Need of Care case filings rose
dramatically in 2011: 247 cases in 2011,
compared with 152 in 201o.

Mandatory reporting laws were designed to
make sure State social workers and law
enforcement have the information they need
to help protect kids.

The push for reform began in the early 1960s.
Pediatricians led the charge.

Recent tragedies in our community continue
to remind us why these laws are necessary.

We know you are aware of these disturbing
cases from media coverage.

We also know that in many cases, these
young victims, or their brothers and sisters,
are your students. You are personally
involved in many cases.

Clearly, we are all in this together.

When a mandatory reporter knows or has
reasonable cause to suspect, as a result of
information received in a professional or
official capacity, that a child is abused or
neglected by anyone regardless of whether the
person suspected of causing the abuse or
neglect is a parent or other person responsible
for the child’s welfare, they shall report the
matter promptly to DPHHS.

The duty also extends to social workers,
physicians and other health care workers,
mental health professionals, child care
providers, and law enforcement.

It is NOT your job to investigate or confirm
the facts that have been provided to you.

It IS your legal obligation to provide the
information to CFSD through the centralized
intake number.

Child Abuse Hotline: 1-866-820-5437

Relaying the information to your principal
does not fulfill your duty to report.

It is a good practice, however, to share the
information so the principal can understand
the child’s challenges.

In some cases, sharing the info is necessary to
ensure security in the school.

The statute does not require you to make a
written report

Ask yourself: would you want one if you had
to testify in court?

Under the Montana Rules of Evidence, you
can make a “refreshing recollection,” but only
to a document prepared at the time.

You may be wondering why you cannot just
call the local office directly.

Centralized intake was designed to ensure
uniform treatment of the reports across the
entire state.

Parents in these cases seem to move
frequently. CI ensures a record of complaints
despite frequent moves.

CFSD assesses the threat level.

CFSD social workers are called to respond.

If the evidence shows the children are at risk,
they are removed from the home and placed
in a secure setting pending further court
action.

Every time I’ve been called out on a child
homicide case, I always call CFSD within the
first hour to determine if there has been a
history of complaints.

Anonymity will be compromised.

No one will do anything anyway.

We understand how awkward it is that you’ll
be sitting across the table from some of these
parents in conferences

We hope you understand that the tension is
worth it in the long run

In addition to your statutory duty to report
child abuse and neglect, you have a duty to
report crimes committed on your campus.

If you do not, you could be potentially held
liable for negligence.

M.C.A. § 41-5-102 is the declaration of
purpose, and seeks to “prevent and reduce
youth delinquency through a system that
does not seek retribution….”

Rather, accountability, supervision,
restitution when necessary.

Detention in only the most limited
circumstances.

Student who frequently asks other students
for food. Hunger complaints.

Wears the same unwashed clothes to school
every day for a month.

Tells another student that he or she is the
oldest sibling at home, left to care for others
while parents are out drinking.

This fact pattern constitutes neglect. You
should call it in to centralized intake.

The same holds true for cases of medical
neglect.

Important reminder: suspicious bruising,
broken bone without reasonable explanation,
multiple broken bones over time.

You smell the strong odor of marijuana
emanating from the student’s locker.

After the lunch break, you smell the odor of
marijuana smoke coming from the student’s
clothing.

Not child abuse or neglect; rather, a violation
of law to be reported to your SRO.

Locker room situation

One student snaps his friend on the rear with
a towel

Horseplay, no intent to injure

Might be disciplinary, might not. But no
violation of state law.

What is the duty to report a playground fight?

Let’s think through some variations of the
situation.

Some of these situations can be a close call,
but it is best to err on the side of reporting.

The main point is to ensure that major
incidents are appropriately reported to either
CFSD or local law enforcment.

Information is the key to protecting children
from abuse and neglect!

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