Child abuse is any act of omission or commission that endangers or impairs a child’s physical or emotional health and development. Child abuse is everyone’s business, is a valid public concern, and the responsibility to report is not optional; it is mandatory. Educators probably have the best opportunity to identify a problem before it becomes a statistic.
The major legal responsibilities of school personnel or child care custodian are:
Determining whether or not the suspected abuse actually occurred is not the responsibility of the educator. Such determination and follow-up investigation will be made by a child protective agency. Again, the responsibility, by law, of the educator is to report every incident of suspected child abuse – not to substantiate the report. The duty to report child abuse is an individual duty, and no supervisor or administrator may impede or inhibit such reporting duties. Internal procedures to facilitate reporting and apprise supervisors and administrators of reports may be established.
Penal Code 11167 provides:
Immunity of Reporting Persons (Penal Code 11172a):
Persons required to report, such as educators, are not liable for civil damages nor for criminal prosecution for reporting child abuse as required by law, unless it can be proven that a false report was made, and that the person knew or should have known that the report was false.
Penal Code 11172b:
Any mandated reporter who fails to report an instance of child abuse which he or she knows to exist or reasonably suspects to exist, is guilty of a misdemeanor and is punishable by confinement in the county jail for a term not to exceed six months or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1000) or both.