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rachelpaige98
05-28-2018, 12:11 PM
Do teachers have to report abuse that took place in the past and the child is no longer in any danger?

Context!
I have two characters (12-yr-old girl and 17-yr-old boy) whose father was abusive.
He was emotionally manipulative and verbally abusive towards both kids and physically abusive towards the boy (would have been both, but the boy would take it for his sister).

He walked out about a year prior to the beginning of my story. The two kids live with their mom and they haven't seen their dad since he left. The parents are divorced, he does not have custody and has not tried to break any kind of custody agreement by seeing the kids. The 12-yr-old girl talks with him on the phone every Wednesday for several hours, but that's the only contact she has with him.


Here's my question:
My 12-yr-old hasn't told anyone about the physical abuse she witnessed. But, she's a chatterbox and can't keep a secret to save her life, so she needs to spill to someone. I currently have that someone as a teacher, but then I remembered mandatory reporting.
So, would her teacher be required to report this? Like I said, the parents are divorced, her dad doesn't have custody, and he hasn't tried to see her in a year, so she's safe.

p.s. this takes place in Indiana, 2016

aheuett
05-28-2018, 02:41 PM
A mandatory reporter is required to report past incidents to police. After all, a past incident just means that it is not happening at that moment. The abuse that you are describing would still likely be within the statute of limitations, so an investigation might even lead to criminal charges. Here are the reference laws in Washington State, which I expect will be very similar to other states:


(1)(a) When any practitioner, county coroner or medical examiner, law enforcement officer, professional school personnel, registered or licensed nurse, social service counselor, psychologist, pharmacist, employee of the department of early learning, licensed or certified child care providers or their employees, employee of the department, juvenile probation officer, placement and liaison specialist, responsible living skills program staff, HOPE center staff, state family and children's ombuds or any volunteer in the ombuds's office, or host home program has reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect, he or she shall report such incident, or cause a report to be made, to the proper law enforcement agency or to the department as provided in RCW 26.44.040.
Source: http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=26.44.030


An immediate oral report must be made by telephone or otherwise to the proper law enforcement agency or the department of social and health services and, upon request, must be followed by a report in writing. Such reports must contain the following information, if known:

(1) The name, address, and age of the child;

(2) The name and address of the child's parents, stepparents, guardians, or other persons having custody of the child;

(3) The nature and extent of the alleged injury or injuries;

(4) The nature and extent of the alleged neglect;

(5) The nature and extent of the alleged sexual abuse;

(6) Any evidence of previous injuries, including their nature and extent; and

(7) Any other information that may be helpful in establishing the cause of the child's death, injury, or injuries and the identity of the alleged perpetrator or perpetrators.
Source: http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=26.44.040

Larry M
05-28-2018, 06:28 PM
As a teacher, I have reported incidences of suspected recent abuse, since the evidence is usually obvious (bruises, injuries, behavior, etc.) However, if evidence of past abuse appears, I am also duty bound to report it.

rachelpaige98
05-28-2018, 09:15 PM
Aheuett:
Thank you so much, this was incredibly helpful! I'm going to switch it up a bit and have her talk to her friend instead.

Thank you!

- - - Updated - - -

Thank you! That's exactly what I needed to know!

ironmikezero
05-28-2018, 10:52 PM
Two points worth mentioning:

In US federal law not reporting a felony is a violation of 18USC4 - Misprison of a Felony. (rarely prosecuted, but still current law. Most defendants are prosecuted as accessories and/or obstructers of justice.)

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/4

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/part-I/chapter-73

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/3

Since your post indicates everything happens in Indiana, I suggest you keep it simple and restrict it to state judicial jurisdiction. Bear in mind that in state law cases, the statue of limitations may play a role (if there is any sort of sexual component, that can make a considerable difference).

https://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-law-basics/time-limits-for-charges-state-criminal-statutes-of-limitations.html

Best of luck!

cornflake
05-28-2018, 11:01 PM
In addition to what Ironmike said about the statute of limitations, with something like that, you can probably do with it what suits, as teachers know DCFS/CPS/whatever it is in the locality, are overrun with current, ongoing abuse cases, the likelihood of someone getting to a case in which the abuse happened over a year ago, to a person about to be an adult, was not sexual (I'm not saying physical abuse doesn't 'count,' but in the scheme of cases stacked on a desk'), the perpetrator no longer lives with the kids, hasn't attempted to see the kids, etc. I'd absolutely buy that going a number of ways from reporting to not.

rachelpaige98
05-28-2018, 11:29 PM
Cornflake, that was my thoughts. Yes, this should be reported, but the likelihood of anything happening is fairly low because there are so many more serious and current cases.

Could it be reasonable then for this teacher to agree not to report what she told him unless something happens in the future?

I'm still looking into all the legal aspects of the divorce as well as the character of the father and the reasons for his actions. However, he doesn't have custody, so even though he wasn't charged with abuse, the situation has still been dealt with and resolved. I also feel like this teacher would understand that reporting would drag the whole family into a mess of legal issues that would only make their lives more difficult.
And nothing is going to happen, so not reporting isn't going to come back to bite the teacher

frimble3
05-29-2018, 12:01 AM
Keep in mind that part of reporting is, I imagine, to put in on record. It's not just about 'these' kids, it's also about the kids of the next woman he takes up with. Or fathers. If the abuse is on record, it'll make it easier to convict the abuser the next time. Even if reporting doesn't change these kids lives, it may save someone down the road.

I'd stick with telling her telling a friend. If you don't want anything to come of it, avoid adults, because even a friend's parent might give mom the beady-eye when they next meet. Maybe a friend of the brother's? Someone who kinda knew what was going on, but the brother swore to secrecy?

What do you want the outcome of telling this to be, anyhow? And, why is she talking to him for 'several' hours 'every' week? I understand you want her to be a blabbermouth, but it sounds like a great way for him to keep tabs on the family he wrecked.

cornflake
05-29-2018, 12:02 AM
Cornflake, that was my thoughts. Yes, this should be reported, but the likelihood of anything happening is fairly low because there are so many more serious and current cases.

Could it be reasonable then for this teacher to agree not to report what she told him unless something happens in the future?

I'm still looking into all the legal aspects of the divorce as well as the character of the father and the reasons for his actions. However, he doesn't have custody, so even though he wasn't charged with abuse, the situation has still been dealt with and resolved. I also feel like this teacher would understand that reporting would drag the whole family into a mess of legal issues that would only make their lives more difficult.
And nothing is going to happen, so not reporting isn't going to come back to bite the teacher

Wait, to agree? With whom?

When you're into the teacher understands that the father has reasons or that reporting abuse would make the family's lives more difficult, I'm off board.

I thought this was an internal thing wherein the teacher found out and decided on her own not to report it because it'd be useless, basically, and the guy was out of the picture.

rachelpaige98
05-29-2018, 12:20 AM
Keep in mind that part of reporting is, I imagine, to put in on record. It's not just about 'these' kids, it's also about the kids of the next woman he takes up with. Or fathers. If the abuse is on record, it'll make it easier to convict the abuser the next time. Even if reporting doesn't change these kids lives, it may save someone down the road.

I hadn't considered that... I'll have her tell a friend about it

Thank you all for your opinions and insight! The whole situation is touchy and I want to make sure what I'm portraying is both believable and not going to be interpreted incorrectly. But man, this is a confusing area of the legal system (although, what area isn't?) and I could only get so far with online research.
Thank you all so much for the help!

Siri Kirpal
05-29-2018, 03:33 AM
Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greetings)

Definitely go with the friend, not the teacher. Teachers can get fired for not reporting.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

neandermagnon
05-30-2018, 03:35 PM
I also feel like this teacher would understand that reporting would drag the whole family into a mess of legal issues that would only make their lives more difficult.
And nothing is going to happen, so not reporting isn't going to come back to bite the teacher

I'm with Cornflake on this one. Not only does that make the teacher a very unsympathetic character, it also isn't all that plausible.

I'm a former teacher. There is no way the idea of a "mess of legal issues" etc is going to stop me from reporting suspected abuse. As a teacher, you report it. You let social services deal with the rest, including making a judgement call as to whether it's better for the kids to keep the family together and help the parents from within the family*, rather than taking the kids away. That's a social worker's responsibility, not a teacher's.

*a lot of the time child abuse/neglect is the result of parents being utterly unable to cope, for whatever reasons (generally a ton of different factors impacting the whole family), and so the family can be helped without taking the kids away. The sort of abuse where one or both parents are just plain nasty also happens - it's up to social services to know the difference.

Don't forget that teachers get training in child protection, so they'll not only know the whole process of how stuff gets reported they will also know the possible outcomes of not reporting it, including knowing about actual cases where people had had suspicions but there was no coordinated system of reporting suspicions so no-one got the full picture until it was too late. Like the case of Fred and Rose West (serial killers) where lots of people had suspicions that something wasn't right but no-one was aware of the full extent of abuse their children were subjected to until after the police dug up the body of one of their daughters from under the patio.

The way stuff is reported in the UK: teachers will report any suspicions to a named child protection person (one in every school) - this ensures that any suspicions are reported to the same person so they can see if there's a pattern emerging (and avoiding the situation where several people had suspicions but never spoke to each other). The named person has additional child protection training and can do some further investigating, e.g. talking to the child in question to see if there is anything to be concerned about. Ordinary teachers aren't allowed to ask questions to the child, because asking leading questions at this stage can prevent police from getting a successful prosecution. Schools are strict about this - we have to report suspicions and listen to what kids tell us and, if they tell us anything worrying, report that. Don't ask any questions. Never, under any circumstances, promise to keep secrets for the child. The named person can ask questions, but they will be very careful what questions they ask and how they ask them (they've had training in it). When the named person has a concern, they will report it to social services - and to the police if they have reason to believe a child's in immediate danger. Also, it may not be abuse at home that's going on. It might be bullying in school or other things going on that's impacting the child, so the named person would find that out and deal with it accordingly.

The whole process is designed to make it easy for teachers to voice what may only be suspicions or a vague sense that something's not quite right and for the named person to be the one that builds up the wider picture and reports it to social services. The scenario of teachers keeping quiet because they don't want to rock any boats becomes a lot less plausible. They're not the one that's going to be rocking boats.

Additionally, if you're writing a conversation between a child and a teacher where the child's disclosing abuse, you will need to make sure the teacher's responses are accurate. For example if a child says "if I tell you something, do you promise to keep it a secret?" the response has to be "I can't promise to keep anything secret. If I think you might be in danger I have to tell someone." (or words to that effect) and never "yes". Teachers are taught this in initial teacher training, before we go in the classroom with kids. Note: if a kid clams up and says nothing after you say that, then that is something to have a chat with the named person about.

If your story's set in the 1980s or earlier, then it's a different matter because there wasn't a coordinated system for reporting concerns. Not one that was fit for purpose, anyway. But cases like Fred and Rose West changed all that (it's a good case study in how systems for reporting concerns, not only by teachers but also A&E staff and other services, can utterly fail if there's no process by which they can all communicate with each other).

Note: the exact procedures in the USA will likely be different to the UK, in terms of the stuff about who reports what concerns to whom - but it's evident from this thread that in the USA it's a legal requirement for teachers to report concerns. And there will be a system that teachers have to follow.

If you want the kid to have the conversation with the teacher, you could still do that, but maybe have something in the reporting process break down. If it's set in the USA you'd have to research what the exact procedure is and then figure out where the line of communication fails, resulting in nothing being done.

If it's set in the UK and you want the above, then my bitter, cynical answer would be that I once had a kid disclose abuse to me, I reported it to the named person, the named person said that they already knew about it and so did social services, but (in the named person's opinion) social services weren't much about it. I also heard worse things about the same kid's home situation from other teachers, all of which had been reported via the named person to social services. At this point I could blame social services, but on the other hand, they have a bloody difficult job to do and this was a situation where the whole family needed help, the mother as well as the children. Sometimes I wish there was a way they could just take a whole family and adopt them into some kind of supported accommodation where they all get looked after. (I think they maybe do that nowadays in some places.) Generally, situations like these are heartbreaking and there's no easy solution. But there are a lot of possible scenarios whereby the abuse gets reported but not enough or not the right things get done about it.

Hbooks
05-30-2018, 04:02 PM
Could it be reasonable then for this teacher to agree not to report what she told him unless something happens in the future?

I'm still looking into all the legal aspects of the divorce as well as the character of the father and the reasons for his actions. However, he doesn't have custody, so even though he wasn't charged with abuse, the situation has still been dealt with and resolved. I also feel like this teacher would understand that reporting would drag the whole family into a mess of legal issues that would only make their lives more difficult.
And nothing is going to happen, so not reporting isn't going to come back to bite the teacher

Teachers receive regular training on mandatory reporting, and are required to sign oaths yearly stating they understand they will not only face criminal charges, but lose their licenses if they fail to report suspected abuse. You can't pass the duty to report off to someone else on campus (the principal, a counselor.) If the child says anything to you, you are required to file the report within a certain number of hours.

People who abuse children don't usually magically get sprinkled with fairy dust and become great people. This guy could be off shacking up with another woman, doing bad things to her kids. The idea that "the system" could muck it up is not an excuse for choosing to ignore abuse. You can have your character choose to ignore abuse, and they can make excuses to themselves for it, but you should be prepared for that to be perceived by readers in a negative light, or at least a gray light.

-"And nothing is going to happen, so..." If you write telegraphing the outcome, it takes away any potential consequences for good or bad choices and lessens conflict. Your characters don't know nothing bad will happen, right?

WeaselFire
05-31-2018, 08:01 AM
First, where and when? That makes a big difference.

In Florida (can't say on elsewhere, only know Florida) a teacher must report all signs of abuse or suspected abuse. Since you're talking about past abuse, the question sort of revolves around how the teacher knows about the past abuse. This is almost always going to be someone speaking up, which requires a report.

Jeff

lianna williamson
06-18-2018, 08:27 PM
Ditto that as a teacher, you are taught to not agree to keep secrets for a student, and to report suspected abuse 100% of the time. It is not your job as a teacher to evaluate the current or future threat to the child vs. the resources an investigation would consume, or make any other calculations or judgements. That is CPS's job. Your job is just to report what you've observed and/or been told.

Lee G.
06-19-2018, 06:06 PM
Yes, the teacher would be required to report it, but in the real world, if the teacher is unsure of what to do, he or she would probably report it to the school's guidance counselor or administration. In your story, if the friend she speaks to happens to be one of these people, then she is complying with the law.

(I'm a teacher, and according to our training, it is completely appropriate to report suspected abuse to these school professionals, who have more extensive training on the next steps to take).