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Children's Health

Teachers suspecting child abuse

12/11/2006

Question:

I know this girls who comes to school almost every day wih another bruise or scratch on her face, the teachers have been worrying for three years now, questioning her and everything. i know her very well and know for a fact that she is not getting abused, she just has very light skin color, her skin is also sensitive, and she is a very aggressive and physical person. How can i get the school to stop bugging her about her injuries?

Answer:

Friends, teachers, neighbors, doctors, police should (and some are required to) report any suspected child abuse, even if it is not very likely.  This is very important in order to prevent any further preventable child abuse.  As her friend, you may know that she is not being abused or you may know only the part of the story that you are being allowed to know as she may be far to embarrassed or scared to let anyone else know.  If she is bothered by the questioning, then she will need to change her own personal behavior and stop acting in a "very aggressive and physical" manner, when the bruises and scratches stop, so will the questions. 

It is important to point out, to you and to the other people reading these answers, sensitive skin with or without light skin color do not cause bruises or scratches, and girls by the 2nd or third grade (if teachers have been "bugging" her for the past 3 years, must be in at least 2nd grade) are not typically "very aggressive and physical" to the point of facial bruising and scratches for years and years.  If they exercise/compete in contact sports, even for a few months become better and better and get injured less and less.

My suspicion is that the teachers have a good reason to be concerned, and should keep paying attention to her and her well being.  As a friend, I would encourage you to pay attention as well and if she is being abused, please have her talk to a teacher, doctor or police officer as soon as possible.  I do not believe, even for a second, that anyone should stop "bugging" her about her injuries.  I wish your friend good luck and good health, hopefully no one is abusing her, but if they are, I wish her the strength to talk to as many people as it takes to make it stop and allow her the ability to heal.

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Response by:

Michael Spigarelli, MD, PhD
Formerly, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati