How many times do we have to go through this before teachers, school administrators, counselors, teachers' aides and janitors get it?
Any suspicion of child abuse must be immediately reported to police or county welfare. This is not optional. Failure to notify is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
Telling a boss or school officials does not relieve school workers of the responsibility to immediately alert authorities. Delaying to internally investigate is not permissible. State law is clear.
Yet, as we've seen in Moraga cases involving teacher sexual abuse of students, in a Brentwood incident where a teacher kicked a 5-year-old child lying on the ground and, now, in Antioch where a teacher duct-taped an 8-year-old student's mouth shut, school personnel remain woefully ignorant of the law. It's inexcusable.
The latest case, at Antioch Charter Academy II, provides a prime example of why internal investigations will not suffice.
According to a claim filed by the parents of an 8-year-old with learning disabilities, one of the boy's third-grade teachers, Michelle Mankewich, placed duct tape over his mouth. In a separate incident, the claim says another teacher, Marianne Dubitsky, put him underneath a chair and then sat on it to keep him in place.
When the child's parents heard of the incidents, they notified and met with the principal. Two days later, they met with the principal and the two teachers. Mankewich admitted the duct-tape incident, while Dubitsky refused to discuss the chair accusation, according to the claim.
At the end of the meeting, the principal said a full investigation would be undertaken and appropriate action taken. Six weeks later, the parents received a letter from the principal and two other school administrators notifying them that "a comprehensive investigation" had found "no legal violations."
During all this time, according to the claim, neither teachers who were present in the classroom nor school administrators notified authorities. Oh yes, one other detail: The principal is Jeannie Dubitsky, the mother of the teacher who allegedly put the boy under the chair and then sat on it.
In other words, not only did the principal apparently fail to follow the notification requirements of the law, she conducted an investigation involving her own daughter and then cleared her. But even if there were no family connection, this would have been very wrong.
Too many such notification failures are coming to light. School workers don't seem to understand their role. It's time for county prosecutors to remind them.
In this case, the parents did what the school should have done and reported the incident to the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Department.
A spokesman for the department said deputies have interviewed the parents, school officials and the teachers in question, and that the case is with the investigative division.
It is important that these type of cases get full attention and that school officials once and for all grasp that reporting suspected child abuse is mandatory in California.