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Child Abuse

Reporting Child abuse

05/18/2000

Question:

My principal sent a child to me to be examined for a shoulder injury. He was injured by a bus driver. The child told me that the bus driver hurt him severely. After the examination I determined that further evaluation by an M.D. would be necessary. I asked the child if he wanted to press charges. He said "Yes"! I gave him a medical referral to give to his Dad to see a doctor. Now my prinicipal is telling me that I can never ask a child or parent if they want to press charges. Am I not the student`s advocate? Does the law not state that I must report any abuse I come across? The student`s civil right`s have been violated. Am I not immune from any liability. Then why can the principal give me a reprimand for being an advocate for this student? Thank`s for any info. School Nurse

Answer:

Your question is complicated because the response depends on the answers to the questions below. If the bus driver is contracted or employed by the school or school board, he/she is a caretaker and the state laws regarding child abuse reporting would apply. However, if the bus driver is not a caretaker, then other civil laws, such as assault, would probably be relevant. Either way it should be reported. If it is alleged child abuse, a report should be made to the legally mandated abuse agencies (Children’s Protective Services and/or Police). In the second case, a non-child abuse civil crime, the guardian (father) can report assault to the police. If the alleged offender is a school representative/employee, this episode must be reported. How that report is made depends on your school policy. Regarding asking the child if he wants to “press charges”, it sounds like your principal is correct. One, minor children typically do not “press charges”, and if this alleged incident involved a caretaker, as discussed above, a report of suspected child abuse must be made regardless of the child’s wishes. Regarding another one of your questions, it is my belief that you are immune from any civil liability if, in good faith, you make a report of alleged child abuse. All states have a Good Samaritan clause in their child abuse reporting laws. It is my recommendation that all school systems select professionals who will serve on a school district wide child abuse team and that these team members become proficient in handling child abuse reporting issues, review all alleged cases from the school system and to develop a relationship with the local Children’s Protective Services agency. Good luck.

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Response by:

Patricia A Myers, LISW
Formerly, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati