Child Abuse - Child Abuse in the School Setting
As part of the implementation of the Project SAVE legislation, the Board of Regents has approved regulations concerning the reporting of child abuse in an educational setting. This regulation, along with the Education Law as modified effective July 1, 2001, established certain rights and responsibilities of parents with respect to the reporting of child abuse in an educational setting. Part of that new legislation requires that a written statement be provided to the parent of the child who is the subject of an allegation of child abuse in an educational setting.
The new law requires certificated school personnel to complete a written report of any allegation of child abuse in an educational setting which must be promptly forwarded to the school administrator (e.g. building principal) of the building in which the alleged child abuse occurred. If the alleged abuse occurred in a school other than a school within the school district of the child’s attendance, the report of such allegations must be promptly forwarded to the Superintendent of Schools of the school district of the child’s attendance and the school district where the abuse allegedly occurred. Upon receipt of the written report, the school administrator or superintendent must first determine whether there is reasonable suspicion to believe that an act of child abuse has occurred and, upon making such a determination, depending on the source of the allegation, notify the child’s parent, provide the parent with a written statement setting forth the parental rights and responsibilities under the law, and forward the report to appropriate law enforcement authorities. This letter specifically satisfies such notice requirements and sets forth your rights as a parent and your responsibilities under the law.
More specifically, in any case where an oral or written allegation is made to a teacher, school nurse, school guidance counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, school administrator, school board member, or other school personnel required to hold a teaching or administrative license or certificate, that the child has been subjected to child abuse by an employee or volunteer in an educational setting, that individual shall, upon receipt of such allegation, promptly complete a written report setting forth the full name of the child alleged to be abused; the name of child’s parents; the identity of the person making the allegation and their relationship to the alleged child victim; the name of the employee or volunteer against whom the allegation was made; a list of the specific allegations of child abuse. Such report must be personally delivered to the school administrator.
A willful failure to make the required report will be considered a Class A misdemeanor. However, individuals who in good faith comply with the reporting requirements will be entitled to immunity from any civil liability which might otherwise result from such action.
Upon receipt of the written report, the administrator must first determine whether there is “reasonable suspicion” to believe that such an act of child abuse has occurred. The administrator must also forward a written report to relevant law enforcement authorities and refer such report to the Commissioner of Education.
Any failure to submit a written report of child abuse to an appropriate law enforcement authority as required by law, whether or not willful, shall be punishable by a civil penalty of up to $5,000 upon administrative determination by the Commissioner of Education.
Reports and other written material submitted pursuant to this law with regard to allegations of child abuse in an educational setting, and photographs taken concerning such reports that are in the possession of any person legally authorized to receive such information shall be confidential and shall not be redisclosed except to law enforcement authorities involved in an investigation or as expressly authorized by law or pursuant to a Court ordered subpoena.
If an indictment or conviction should occur after a report is made, the District Attorney is required to notify the Superintendent of the district where the acts of child abuse occurred and the school district where the child is attending, if different. The District Attorney must also notify the Commissioner of Education in the event a license or certified school employee is convicted of any crime involving child abuse in an educational setting.
The Commissioner, upon receiving notice of the conviction, shall then make a determination as to whether the individual possesses good moral character in accordance with Part 83 of the New York Code of Rules and Regulations. The district shall similarly consider the applicability of Education Law Section 3020-a with respect to further disciplinary proceedings.
The Superintendent or other school administrator shall not make any agreement to withhold from law enforcement authorities, the Superintendent or the Commissioner, where appropriate, information concerning allegations of child abuse in an educational setting against an employee or volunteer in exchange for that individual’s resignation or voluntary suspension from his or her position.
If the Superintendent or school administrator makes such an agreement violative of this prohibition against “silent resignations,” it shall constitute a Class E felony, and shall be punishable by a civil penalty of up to $20,000.
Please contact our office in the event you wish to discuss this matter in greater detail.