Teacher and Child Abuse
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All educational personnel are required by law to report to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) if they have reasonable cause to believe that a child known to them in their professional or official capacity may be an abused or neglected child. (A report made by an educational employee to the person in charge of the educational institution does not relieve the employee of the duty to report to DCFS.) The identities of reporters, witnesses, and subjects of the report are confidential under law. Traditional privileges such as that between a counselor and student do not apply in cases of child abuse or neglect. Abuse includes such things as physical abuse, a substantial risk of physical or emotional injury, torture, sexual abuse, or excessive corporal punishment. Neglect includes the denial of basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, and medical care.
When a school employee makes a report to DCFS, he or she, at the employee’s discretion, may also inform the building principal or the school superintendent that a report has been made. At the community college or university level, such report may be made to the direct supervisor or department chairperson. This person may not interfere with the filing of a DCFS report. If the report to DCFS is made by telephone, a written report must also be filed as a follow-up. Willful failure to file a report where required may be a misdemeanor and can result in the suspension or revocation of a person’s teaching certificate. A person acting in good faith in making a report or participating in an investigation has immunity from civil and criminal liability.
Investigation of Reports
The Department of Children and Family Services is required to investigate all reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. If, after an initial investigation, it appears that there is a good-faith indication of abuse or neglect and the person named as the alleged perpetrator is employed in an activity resulting in frequent contact with children and the alleged abuse occurred in the course of such employment, DCFS is required to notify the school district that it has begun a formal investigation.
The investigation is supposed to be conducted in as non-obtrusive a manner as possible. A school employee accused of child abuse has the right to have his or her supervisor, union representative, and attorney present when interviewed by the DCFS representative. An employee accused of child abuse should never speak to the DCFS investigator before first consulting his/her union representative.
Once the investigation is completed, the Department will determine that the report is either “indicated” or “unfounded.” If the Department determines that the report is “indicated,” it is placed on the DCFS Central Registry where it will remain for a minimum of five years. School superintendents have access to information contained on the Central Registry. A superintendent is required to inform the State Board of Education, the school board, and the chief administrator in the school where the alleged perpetrator is employed, that the person has been named as a perpetrator in an indicated report.
Being named as a perpetrator in an indicated report may be grounds for suspension or revocation of a teaching certificate.
If you are involved in a case regarding child abuse, please contact us for a Free Teacher and Child Abuse Consultation.