Mandatory Reporting High School

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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