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No one wants to be called a busybody and most of us try to mind our own business. But there are times when minding your own business is illegal. That is true when it comes to child abuse reporting.
A story out of Indiana last week highlights this, as five Indianapolis School District employees were publicly criticized by the Schools Superintendent, Lewis Ferebee, for failure to promptly report child abuse, according to The Indy Star. Let's look at what happened in Indiana and mandatory reporting generally.
Mandatory Reporting Laws
Most states have mandatory reporting laws. These laws outline who must report child abuse as a professional matter and the appropriate procedure for doing so. Mandatory reporters are generally people who work regularly with children and are in a position of trust, such as:
In the 18 states without mandatory reporting laws, the obligation to report abuse falls more generally on everyone. Wherever you are, just because someone specifically must report doesn't mean that others can ignore abuse.
Internal Abuse in Indiana
Teachers in Indiana are required to report suspected child abuse without delay. That procedure was not followed last month in Indianapolis, and it may be because the tables were turned. The suspected abuser was a teacher and it was a parent who discovered it.
A mother saw some strange texts on her teenage son's cell phone and started to suspect that a teacher was being inappropriately sexual with her child. But when the mom came in to report the problem to school authorities, no one acted for days. Each authority believed the other had followed procedure and reported the teacher's suspected abuse.
The teacher, Shana Taylor, 37, has since been fired for her alleged sexual misconduct. She has also been criminally charged with nine counts of felony child seduction, one felony count of dissemination of matter harmful to minors, and one misdemeanor count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Last week the superintendent of Indianapolis schools called the delay in reporting Taylor's activities a "clear case of incompetence," according to The Indy Star. Lewis Ferebee said each employee assumed someone else had filed the report. "It is very disappointing," he said. "We have a tangle of miscommunication."
Sandy Runkle-DeLorme, director of programs for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said that telling a "designated reporter" to contact the Department of Child Services does not absolve people of their own responsibility to make a report. Failure to report suspected child abuse in Indiana can be charged as a criminal misdemeanor. Find out the law in your state.