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Reporting Suspected Child Abuse

Alyssa Keehan, Esq., CPCU, ARM
November 2020
A summary of reporting obligations and procedures required by law

Recent high-profile incidents at K-12 schools, colleges, and universities have re-focused attention on preventing sexual abuse of children.

Employees often fail to report “red flags” or suspicions because they do not understand their reporting obligations. The following summarizes important aspects of reporting procedures to ensure your institution complies with the law and protects children from harm.

What Laws Require Reporting Suspected Child Abuse?

All 50 states have laws requiring that either all or certain employees of institutions report suspected child abuse and neglect to state officials. View a state-by-state listing of these mandatory reporting laws.

Who Are Mandatory Reporters?

The answer varies by state. Generally, people likely to have contact with children, such as teachers, administrators, coaches, law enforcement, and medical professionals must report.

When Should Employees Report?

When employees know or reasonably suspect potential sexual abuse, they should report as soon as practicable to law enforcement or a state’s child protective services office. Employees also should report concerns to someone at your institution with the authority to investigate and stop the abuse.

Can Reports Be Made Anonymously?

While reports can be made anonymously in most states, the identity of reporters helps investigations. All jurisdictions protect the confidentiality of abuse records.

Are Reporters Protected From Liability or Retaliation?

No state laws require that reporters have conclusive proof that abuse occurred. In all states, individuals who report in good faith are immune from liability. “Good faith” usually means there is a reasonable belief that abuse may have occurred, even if a later investigation shows it did not.

Can Mandatory Reporters Be Punished for Failing to Report Suspected Abuse?

Failure to report may result in the mandatory reporter being held personally liable for the abuse through civil litigation and criminal prosecution with the prospect of imprisonment.

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