Responsibilities of Schools for Reporting Suspected Child Abuse

Amendments to Child Protective Services Law 23 P.S. §§ 6311, 6313 and 6319

In addition to the recent legislative changes to The Educator Discipline Act, there have been changes to the obligations for reporting child abuse and suspected child abuse for schools and their employees who have contact with children. The Governor signed these new changes into law on May 14, 2014. The effective dates vary.

23 P.S. § 6311. Persons required to report suspected child abuse.

There are two amendments to this section, the first amendment is effective June 14, 2014 until December 31, 2014 and the second amendment is effective on December 31, 2014.

Effective June 14, 2014 until December 31, 2014, a staff member of a school is required to immediately notify the person in charge of the school.  The person in charge of the school shall assume the responsibility and have the legal obligation to report or cause a report to be filed with Child Protective Services.  The law does not require more than one report from the school.

Effective December 31, 2014, the persons required to report (mandated reporters) are expanded to include:

1.  A school employee.

2.  An individual paid or unpaid, who, on the basis of the individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child.

3.  An individual supervised or managed by a person listed in 1. and 2. above.

4.  An independent contractor.

5. An attorney affiliated with an agency, institution, or organization that is responsible for the care, supervision or control of children. (this requirement takes effect June 14, 2014)

Definitions:

Direct contact with children: The care, supervision, guidance or control of children or routine interaction with children.

Independent contractor: An individual who provides a program, activity or service to an agency, institution, organization, or entity, including a school, that is responsible for the care, supervision, guidance, or control of children.  The definition does not include an individual who has no direct contact with children.

Program, activity or service: A public or private educational, athletic or other pursuit in which children participate, including but not limited to: a youth camp or program, a recreational camp or program, a sports or athletic program, an outreach program, an enrichment program, and a troop/club or similar organization.

School employee: An individual who is employed by a school or provides a program, activity, or service sponsored by a school, but excluding individuals who do not have direct contact with children.

A mandated reporter shall make a report of suspected child abuse or cause a report to be made to Child Protective Services immediately if the mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse under any of the following circumstances:

  • The  mandated reporter comes into contact with the child in the course of employment, occupation and practice of a profession or through a regularly scheduled program, activity or service.
  • The mandated reporter is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of the child, or is affiliated with a school that is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of  the child.
  • A  person makes a specific disclosure to the mandated reporter that an identifiable child is the victim of child abuse.
  • An individual 14 years of age or older makes a specific disclosure to the mandated reporter that the individual has committed child abuse.

Nothing in this section shall require a child to come before the mandated reporter in order for the mandated reporter to make a report of suspected child abuse.

Nothing in this section shall require the mandated reporter to identify the person responsible for the child abuse to make a report of suspected child abuse.

The mandated reporter is required to immediately notify the person in charge of the school.  Upon notification, the person in charge of the school shall assume the responsibility for facilitating the cooperation of the school with the investigation of the report.

Concluding, in § 6311 (effective December 14, 2014) the definitions of mandatory reporters are expanded. No longer is the mandatory reporter solely the person in charge of the school and the person in charge of the school has an expanded obligation to assume the responsibility for facilitating the cooperation of the school with the investigation of the report.

23 P.S. § 6313. Reporting procedure.

There are two amendments to this section, the first amendment is effective until December 31, 2014 and the second amendment is effective on December 31, 2014.

Effective until December 31, 2014, mandatory reporters are required to report suspected child abuse to Child Protective Services immediately by telephone and in writing within 48 hours after the oral report.

The written report shall include the following information if available:

  • The names and addresses of the child and the parents or other person responsible for the care of the child if known.
  • Where the suspected abuse occurred.
  • The age and sex of the subjects of the report.
  • The nature and extent of the suspected child abuse, including any evidence of prior abuse to the child or siblings of the child.
  • The name and relationship of the person or persons responsible for causing the suspected abuse, if known, and any evidence of prior abuse by that person or persons.
  • Family composition.
  • The source of the report.
  • The person making the report and where that person can be reached.
  • The actions taken by the reporting source, including the taking of photographs and X-rays, removal or keeping of the child or notifying the medical examiner or coroner.
  • Any other information which the department may require by regulation.

Effective December 31, 2014, the oral report shall be made to a Statewide toll-free number and a written report shall be submitted using electronic technologies[1]  The Department of Welfare is required as of October 12, 2014 to provide specific information related to the recognition and reporting of child abuse on its website.

The contents of the report are expanded to include the name, telephone number and e-mail address of the person making the report. The reported actions of the mandated reporter are expanded to include medical tests of child, whether the child was taken into protective custody, whether the child was admitted to a private or public hospital, and whether a death of a child is related to suspected child abuse.  Additionally, the mandated reporter is obligated to include any other information required by Federal law or regulation.

Concluding, § 6313 (effective December 14, 2014) expands the contents of the mandatory report and changes the process of reporting to a standardized electronic process.

23 P.S. § 6319. Penalties for failure to report or to refer.

There is one amendment to this section that is effective June 14, 2014.

Until June 14, 2014, failure to report is a misdemeanor of the third degree for the first violation and a misdemeanor of the second degree for a second or subsequent violation.

Subsequent to June 14, 2014, failure to report is a felony of the third degree if:

  • the mandated reporter willfully fails to report;
  • the child abuse constitutes a felony of the first degree or higher; and
  • the mandated reporter has direct knowledge of the nature of the abuse.

If the offense is not specified as a felony in the third degree the offense is a misdemeanor of the second degree. Importantly, a report of suspected child abuse to law enforcement or the appropriate county agency by a mandated reporter, made in lieu of a report to Child Protective Services, shall not constitute an offense under this section provided that the report was made in a good faith effort to comply with the obligation of mandatory reporting.

If a mandatory reporter’s failure to report continues while the person knows or has reasonable cause to believe the child is actively being subjected to child abuse, the person commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, except if the child abuse constitutes a felony of the first degree or higher, the person then commits a felony of the third degree.

If a mandatory reporter commits a second or subsequent offense of failing to report that person commits a felony of the third degree, except if the child abuse constitutes a felony of the first degree or higher, the penalty for the mandatory reporter is a felony in the second degree.

The statute of limitations for failing to report shall be either the statute of limitations for the crime committed against the minor child or five years, whichever is greater.

Privileged communication between any professional required to report and the patient or client of that professional SHALL NOT APPLY TO SITUATIONS OF CHILD ABUSE and does not constitute grounds for failure to report, except in TWO limited circumstances: Confidential communications made to a member of the clergy within the scope of that privilege, or to an attorney under attorney-client privilege and attorney work product rules, such as a direct confession of the child abuse.

NOTE: Guidance counselors, social workers and school psychologists have an absolute legal duty to report suspected abuse, with no exceptions. (Effective June 14, 2014)

In conclusion, after December 14, 2014, the persons required to directly report to Child Protective Services (mandatory reporter) with notice to the person in charge of the school are greatly expanded. The reporting procedure will change from an oral report and a follow up written report within 48 hours to a single call using a Statewide toll-free hotline established by the Department of Welfare.  The penalties for failure to report will be raised from misdemeanor of the third and second degree to felony of the third degree, misdemeanor of the second degree, with the possibility of felonies of greater degrees. The statute of limitations has been increased to the same for the crime committed against the child or five years whichever is greater.


 

[1] Effective December 31, 2014, in § 6305, the Department of Public Welfare shall establish procedures for the secure and confidential use of electronic technologies to transmit the mandated written reports that will provide a confirmation of receipt of the report to the mandated reporter. Using this technology will relieve the mandated reporter from making the oral and written report required in § 6313.

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AMENDMENTS TO CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES LAW

23 P.S. §§ 6311, 6313 and 6319

 

23 P.S. § 6311.Persons required to   report suspected child abuse.
Effective June 14, 2014 until December 31, 2014. • Staff member of a school is required to immediately notify the person in charge of the school.
• Attorney affiliated with an agency, institution, or organization that is responsible for the care, supervision, or control of children.
• The person in charge of the school shall assume the  responsibility and have the legal obligation to report or cause to report to Child Protective Services.
• The law does not require more than one report from the   school.
Effective December 31, 2014. Mandated reporters now include:• school employee.

• individual paid or unpaid who, on the  basis of the individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child.

• individual supervised or managed by either of the above.

• independent contractor.

Mandated reporter reports child abuse or suspected child abuse immediately to Child Protective Services if:• mandated reporter comes in contact with child.

• mandated reporter is directly responsible for a child or is affiliated with a school that is directly responsible for a child.

• person makes a specific disclosure to mandated reporter that a child is a victim of child abuse.

• individual 14 years or older makes a specific disclosure to mandated reporter that an individual has committed child abuse.

NO requirement for child to come before mandated reporter in order for mandated reporter to make a report of child abuse.
NO requirement that mandated reporter identify the person responsible for the child abuse.
Mandated reporter must immediately notify the person in charge of the school.
Person in charge of the school shall assume responsibility for facilitating cooperation of the school with the investigation of the report.
23 P.S. § 6313.Reporting   Procedure.
Effective until December 31, 2014. Mandatory reports are required to report suspected child abuse to Child Protective Services immediately by telephone and in writing within 48 hours after oral report.
Effective after December   14, 2014. The Department of Welfare by October 12, 2014 will have on   their website information regarding the reporting process and a Statewide   toll-free reporting number that will replace the oral and written report   requirement.
The mandated reporter must include their name, telephone   number, e-mail address in the report.
Additional information if available must be reported:• whether the child has been taken into Protective Custody.

• whether the child has been admitted to a public or private hospital.

• whether the death of a child is related to child abuse.

23 P.S. § 6319.Penalties for failure to report or to refer.
Effective until June 14, 2014. Failure to report is a misdemeanor of the third degree for first violation.Failure to report a second/subsequent time is a misdemeanor of the second degree.
Effective June 14, 2014. Failure to report is a felony of the third degree if:• mandated reporter willfully fails to report.

• the child abuse constitutes a felony of the first degree or higher.

• mandated reporter has direct knowledge of the nature of the abuse.

If the offense is not a felony of the third degree failure to report is a misdemeanor in the second degree.
Reporting child abuse to law enforcement or an appropriate county agency by mandated reporter in lieu of report to Child Protective Services, if made in good faith, is not an offense.
Failure to report when a child is actively subjected to child abuse is a misdemeanor of the first degree, unless the child abuse is a felony of the first degree or higher, this offense is a felony of the third degree.
Failure to report a second/subsequent time is a felony of the third degree.
Statute of Limitations for failing to report shall be either the statute of limitations for the crime committed against the minor child or 5 years, whichever is greater.
Guidance counselors, social workers and school psychologists have an absolute legal duty to report suspected abuse, with NO exceptions.
Definitions.
Direct contact with children. The care, supervision, guidance or control of children or routine interaction with children.
Independent contractor. An individual who provides a program, activity or service to an agency, institution, organization, or entity, including a school, that is responsible for the care, supervision, guidance, or control of children.  The definition does not include an individual who has no direct contact with children.
Program, activity or service. A public or private educational, athletic or other pursuit in which children participate, including but not limited to: a youth camp or program, a recreational camp or program, a sports or athletic program, an outreach program, an enrichment program, and a troop/club or similar organization.
School Employee. An individual who is employed by a school or provides a   program, activity, or service sponsored by a school, but excluding individuals who do not have direct contact with children.

If you have any questions, please contact Judy Shopp at js@mbm-law.net or Alfred Maiello at acm@mbm-law.net.

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