School of Education: Legal Seminar Videos

Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting: Scenario Discussion


Scenario Discussion

Dr. Erma Jean Sims,
Sonoma State University

Should Mr. Chang contact Katrina's parents about the suspicion of child abuse? No. No. First off, we don't know what the parent is going to do once they find out that the child made even a casual comment about what's happening to her or him in that home. We don't want to take the chance of sending a child into an abusive home and being battered or abused even more. We also don't want to take the chance of the parent fleeing with the child to another school, simply transferring the child inter-district or moving out of state, so that they can continue what they consider normal and appropriate behavior, even though we know that it's child abuse, with criminal liability for child abuse. So let's not alert the parents. Any conversation with the parents is going to be handled by the principal or vice-principal. But you're going to make a report. Mr. Chang does have a responsibility to report his suspicion, using the reasonable person test, using the reasonable suspicion definition of child abuse reporting. Start with the principal or vice-principal or teacher in charge that day in making that report. I'm going to take a couple questions from the audience and then I want to share some frequently asked questions that relate to these three areas in the next five slides. It's a good question. When does spanking become child abuse and when is it simply in-home discipline? It's so difficult to make a call on that. Best practice is not to spank a child in the home. There are other ways of disciplining a child besides hitting them. We can take away privileges, we can limit their activities, we can make an in-home behavior contract between parent and child, and we can seek the necessary counseling for child and family to help resolve these issues without ever resulting to spanking. Now I know my folks spanked me, of course that was a number of years ago and they were allowed to do that, but the law has changed. Not allowed to spank your children, at all. And if the child calls and reports your abuse on their own, which many children do some children in foster care know the law better than the people supervising them in their homes then you're in big trouble. So we're just going to avoid that whole scenario and not spank a child, and not use a ruler on their palms or a tap on their head or a gentle shove across the room. Your gentle shove is not necessarily going to be interpreted by them as a gentle shove.

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