Teachers, Child Abuse and the New Pennsylvania Public School Code Amendments

I recently spoke at a few local Christian Schools about the recent amendments to the Pennsylvania Public School Code of 1949. This law went into effect in January 2013. Despite its title, this new law applies to private schools as well and, among other things, requires teachers of both public and private schools to have certain training concerning “abuse” and “sexual misconduct” as it relates to students. In fact, teachers are now required to have 3 hours of training every 5 years on certain topics relating to child abuse and sexual misconduct.
Among other things, the new Pennsylvania Public School law requires training on…

…the reporting requirements placed upon teachers who learn about or become aware of child abuse. These requirements are set forth in the already existing law known as the Pennsylvania Child and Protective Services Act. This Act requires certain groups of people, including doctors, nurses, clergy and teachers, to name a few, to report child abuse to the authorities. Child abuse is defined under the law to include non-accidental physical and mental abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. Each of these terms, of course, are specifically denied as well.
A teacher (or other covered person) must immediately report child abuse if they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse. The law requires such teacher to immediately report the suspected abuse to the person in charge of the institution (typically a principal) or other person designated by the school for the purpose of receiving such reports. The school then must immediately inform the proper authorities and then, within 48 hours, they must also make a written report. The current phone number for “ChildLine” is: 1-800-932-0313. The law does not require the teacher to call the child abuse hotline at this time but, instead, requires simply that the person in charge of the institution, or other designated individual, do so. Teachers, or others who are required to make a report but who fail to make a report, can be fined and may be given jail time as well. Also, the law protects teachers from being fired because they made a good faith report.
Importantly, anyone, whether they are a teacher or other person required by law to make a report or not, can call the Child Line number to report suspected child abuse if they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse. The law also provides a certain amount of immunity for anyone who makes a good faith report.
If you are a teacher, clergy, doctor, nurse, or anyone else who is subject to mandatory reporting and if you have a question about the new Pennsylvania Public School Code amendments, or about the Child and Protective Services Act as it relates to reporting suspected child abuse, please call our Pennsylvania family law attorneys for help at 717-843-8046 or www.YourLawFirmForLife.com.