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May 062013
 

Cases of abuse by school employees such as teachers, coaches, and even principals have increased, especially in the last several years. According to a November 2012 Report of Pennsylvania’s Task Force on Child Protection, the PA Department of Education has over 500 open cases, 144 of which involve sexual misconduct or physical abuse.

The silver lining of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal is that parents are now talking to their children about sexual abuse. In addition, the extensive media coverage about the scandal may have given victims more courage to report child sex abuse. As a result, more victims are stepping forward.

What Can We Do About Child Sex Abuse in Schools?

Educators are required to report suspected cases of child abuse and child sex abuse. Under 23 Pa. C.S. Section 6311 Persons required to report suspected child abuse, certain people are required to report child sex abuse. Read more about child abuse and child sex abuse mandatory reporting requirements in Pennsylvania.

In a school setting, that includes:

  • school administrators,
  • school teachers, and
  • school nurses.

The Two Tier System of Mandatory Reporting in Pennsylvania

The major problem with the reporting scheme is that a two tier system is set up. Under section (c), persons who are required to report child sex abuse must “immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge.”

Section (c) then requires that “Upon notification, the person in charge or the designated agent, if any, shall assume the responsibility and have the legal obligation to report or cause a report to be made…This chapter does not require more than one report from any such institution, school, facility or agency.”

The problem with Pennsylvania’s law is that a school administrator, teacher or nurse only has to make a report to the “person in charge.” Then, that person assumes the responsibility and has the legal obligation to make the report.

Suggested post: Sex Abuse by Teachers, Coaches and Other School Employees – Proper Investigation is Key

From a practical standpoint, this creates a situation where a person in charge is likely to conduct an initial investigation before reporting the abuse. That investigation may be botched and an individual-abuser may conceal evidence or otherwise attempt to threaten the victim into silence. Schools across Pennsylvania each have different policies and procedures with respect to how a report of sex abuse is handled. This means discrepancies across the state, when there should be a clear and streamlined system and clearly outlined reporting obligations.

Pennsylvania should institute a central reporting system and take the investigation out of the hands of the individual school. Therefore, when any school employee in Pennsylvania has any reasonable suspicion of sex abuse, a report should be made to the central agency who will then work with the school to investigate the abuse. This provides a neutral third party with the ability to handle the investigation and provides greater opportunity for uniformity in reporting procedures.

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Get a Free Consultation with Brian Kent, Former Sex Crimes Unit Prosecutor and School Sex Abuse Lawyer

Sex abuse in schools is often committed by teachers, administrators, coaches, teacher’s aides, and other staff. Children suffer long term consequences and may be entitled to compensation. In addition, schools often change the school’s sex abuse reporting policy as a result of being sued. Brian Kent works to obtain justice for victims of school sex abuse.

For more information, contact Brian Kent, a former sex crimes unit prosecutor. Brian offers free consultations to victims of sex abuse in a school setting.

**This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is crucial to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case. See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

 Posted by on May 6, 2013 School/Teacher Sex Abuse