July 17: In a recent story, Mercury News reporters Julia Prodis Sulek and Sharon Noguchi asked why some school personnel don't report complaints of child abuse, especially when they involve a colleague. Here's the crux of their report:
"From Moraga to Palo Alto to San Jose, child sex abuse cases in schools and day care centers have surfaced alleging that school employees entrusted with the safety of students failed to do what their oaths and the law required: report to police or child protective services when they have a reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused.
"Child advocates blame a lack of courage and a lack of training.
"It's not so much about protecting people, but not having the leadership ability to step up," said Margaret Petros, a commissioner on the Santa Clara County Child Abuse Council. "People in general want to get along and not rock the boat.'"
Their piece followed the latest developments in the Jerry Sandusky scandal and apparent cover-up at Penn State; it also came in the wake of a series of investigative reports by Bay Area News Group staffers Matthias Gafni and Malaika Fraley that uncovered another dark story (stories, really) that
Today, Congressman George Miller announced he was asking the Government Accountability Office to examine the effectiveness of current laws and policies on child abuse reporting. He released the letter he had sent to the head of the agency, requesting the inquiry. It began:
"The child sexual abuse scandal at The Pennsylvania State University, other recent incidents of child abuse and findings contained within the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) prior work for the Committee on Education and the Workforce have raised a number of concerns about whether we have adequate laws and policies in place to prevent and address abuse of children in schools."
Miller wants the agency to find out the procedures in place at schools and universities and how they handle allegations that school staff engaged in child abuse, and how parents are notified when there has been such an allegation or investigation; what laws and regulations states have in place for such complaints; and what policies universities have to protect children on campus who aren't students, but who are participating in on-campus activities.
Based on your experience, are human failings -- fear, loyalty to peers, denial -- at the root of the problem, where it exists, or is it a matter of clarifying policies and strengthening laws? Or both? Which policies would make a difference?
Student Teacher: The law says that as a teacher I am required to report directly to the Child Protective Services. I sign an oath and I am ultimately responsible. HOWEVER, in teacher credential programs and in Oakland Unified, teachers are told to report the incidents to their principal and document, document, document the date, time, circumstances, and place you were when you reported the incident. You must them document exactly what you told your principal and exactly why you thought it was reportable. ...
I understand why principals must know when suspicions are reported, but I completely disagree that teachers should report the incidents to the principal who will then decide on whether or not they should be reported.
Seenitbefore: I have also called CPS anonymously on several occasions. It is heartbreaking to BEG administration to please intervene and provide services to students who are obviously dealing with something that isn't quite right at home. Sometimes there are outside agencies providing counseling to a limited number of students. Most often we teachers are told that whatever inappropriate behaviors we are noticing are the direct result of our lack of ability to teach.
Former Oakland Teacher: Yes, what (Student Teacher) says. I sometimes reported child abuse to CPS and was lucky my supervisor never found out because I would have seriously been in trouble. Of course, I could have lost my credential if I didn't. So what are you supposed to do?
Nontclair: ... What is being done to stop the abuse occurring *in* OUSD? How many of you know an OUSD kid who was chronically bullied in school, had (along with parents) officially reported the incidents multiple times, and still virtually nothing was done?