Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced legislation today to prevent child abuse in schools by ensuring that school employees identify the abuse and stop it in its tracks. Recent reports showed that certain abuse was prolonged because large numbers of school personnel were unaware of the processes and their responsibilities for reporting abuse. Gatto’s legislation, AB 1432, would require teachers and other school officials to pass an online course on how to identify and properly report abuse, as a prerequisite before the start of each school year.
Enacted in 1963, the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) requires certain professionals, known as mandated reporters, to report to law enforcement or protective services known or suspected instances of neglect, or physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Mandated reporters include educational professionals like teachers, instructional aides, teachers’ aides, school administrators, and counselors. Despite CANRA’s requirements, current law does not require school districts to train personnel on detecting and reporting child abuse.
“We can’t allow unfamiliarity with the signs of abuse and the proper way to report it to serve as excuse for permitting child abusers to continue working in our schools,” said Gatto. “AB 1432 is a common-sense approach to the problem, since every year, education professionals will be reminded of their duties.”
There have been several incidents recently of unreported child abuse, where one or more school employees were aware of the incident but failed to report it to law enforcement. In the Redwood City School District, five staff members knew, but failed to tell authorities, about a teacher’s abuse of two five-year-old special-needs students. The abusing teacher was ultimately arrested, and the five staff members were fired. In the Brentwood Union School District, eleven employees did not alert authorities of a case in which a special-education teacher, who had already been convicted of child abuse, pulled an autistic student from his chair and kicked him. The incident resulted in a $950,000 settlement paid by the district, and eight additional students’ families have come forward with similar claims against the same teacher.
“The system has failed, when unreported instances of child abuse prolong kids’ misery,” said Gatto. “AB 1432 is a simple, cost-effective means of making sure school personnel know the techniques and their responsibilities for protecting our children from predators.”