New Online Training For Massachusetts Mandated Reporters
Independent schools in Massachusetts should be aware of a new on-line training module recently unveiled by the Middlesex Children’s Advocacy Center and the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office. We recommend that all Massachusetts school employees take advantage of this resource to educate themselves about how to identify and report child abuse and neglect.
The training takes less than one hour to complete and offers an interactive approach to learning about child abuse and neglect and what to do if one suspects child maltreatment. The module is available here: http://51a.middlesexcac.org/
In Massachusetts, private school teachers, administrators, and counselors are all considered “mandated reporters” and are thus obligated to report potential child abuse or neglect based on reasonable suspicion. The new training tool is particularly helpful in clarifying that, although such employees may delegate to the Head of School the mechanics of filing a report of suspected child abuse or neglect with the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”), the obligation to report still rests with the individual with the initial concern, should the Head of School decide not to file.
In addition, DCF has recently updated the so-called “51A Report,” the written form which must be completed within 48 hours of calling in an oral report of suspected maltreatment to DCF. The revised form includes new sections that ask: (i) for emergency contact information for the children being reported (which could include school personnel), (ii) whether other children are implicated by the alleged abuse or neglect, and (iii) about “related concerns,” including substance abuse and whether DCF social workers should be concerned for their safety when investigating an allegation. The new version of the 51A Report is available here: http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dcf/child-abuse-reporting-form.pdf
The decision to report suspected child abuse or neglect is often fraught and never easy. Many states are updating child protection laws and regulations and we encourage every school to stay current with these developments, including taking advantage of opportunities to educate faculty and staff on this topic. Schwartz Hannum regularly provides on-site trainings for school employees on these critical issues, which can be a valuable supplement to online training resources such as the module described here.
Please feel free to reach out to any member of the Firm’s Education Practice Group for guidance in this area.