School of Education: Legal Seminar Videos

Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting: Definition



Dr. Erma Jean Sims,
Sonoma State University

Mandatory reporting of abuse. I thought it would be good if we started out with a definition. Child abuse is a physical injury inflicted and notice this wording not by accident. Sometimes we do injure someone, but it is accidental, unintentional, you never meant for it to happen. So it's a physical injury inflicted, not by accident, on a child by another person. Another part of this definition is that sexual abuse is sexual abuse of a child. And although it is hard to believe, there are incidents of sexual abuse of children as young as 10 months old. So we know that this happens. Frequently and unfortunately it is often times someone the child knows very well. A parent, a grandparent, an aunt, an uncle, or a friend of the family that comes to the home on a regular basis. So we want to be very sensitive to the fact that even very, very young children are and can be sexually abused. Sexual abuse is also willful cruelty for unjustifiable punishment of a child. And many children are beaten, denied food, locked in their rooms and punished severely because they get a conduct report from you as a teacher, saying that the child was misbehaving that day in school. So if you have a child that comes to you and says, Ms. Jones, please, if I have to take this report home, my mother or father is going to beat me with an extension cord. We want to be sensitive to what's going on in the child's home. Of course it's important to inform parents that children are misbehaving or missing out on the academic experience because of their behavior or finding it difficult to perform their academic functions in the classroom because of their misbehaving, but we also want to be very sensitive to the penalties that some parents inflict based on a simple conduct report that you may send home. This willful, inflicted, unjustifiable, physical pain or mental suffering so we know that child abuse can be this mental haranging; a constant, un-relentless attack on a child's sense of self. Hurting their self-esteem, filling them full of doubt and anxieties about their personal worth is also a form of child abuse. We can also be liable for not reporting abuse by simply failing to safeguard a child from injuries. Once we become aware that this child is going to be severely punished at home, we have a responsibility to protect that child from future harm in that home. And if we fail to take the precautions necessary to protect the child we will be liable for child abuse. The child is under your care for roughly six if you have after school programs, maybe up to seven hours a day. Any child in your custody, in your care, you are responsible for noticing child abuse and reporting it. We talked a little bit earlier about unlawful corporeal punishment. Some parents saying, well, I didn't really abuse my child because I just gave them several pats on their behind based on how many years old they are. Jimmy is five, so I gave only gave him five pats. That's five pats too many. We cannot inflict corporeal punishment on the children and if we become aware of it in the home we have a responsibility. Unlawful corporeal punishment or injury that results in a traumatic condition. And traumatic condition is very leniently interpreted it's not a strict test. A person can also be guilty of child abuse by simply neglecting the child in the home or if the child is in out-of-home placement. Many of you may find that you have children in your classroom who are in foster care, not living with their biological parents. Someone in the foster care facility or home may be abusing that child. Many of the instances that we find in court cases is the older teenager in the home who is abusing the foster care kids or a male who visits the home frequently or is a relative of the child care facility owner. So, if you see a child who is coming to school in tattered and dirty clothes, unclean hair, hasn't been bathed in several days, reports to you that they haven't eaten in 36 hours, reports to you that they haven't seen a mother, father, guardian or person responsible for their care in several days. All of these instances constitute neglect of that child, and we want to be ready and willing to report that kind of abuse as well. A child needing medical attention that they don't get child is coming to school with the flu, cold, measles, migraine headaches, etc that go unattended would constitute neglect as well.

CREDITS: Instruction and Content by Dr. Erma Jean Sims, Sonoma State University. Videography and Technical support by Mark Niemann, Sonoma State University