Changes coming to how schools report suspected child abuse in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana school districts will soon have to follow new rules when it comes to how they report suspected child abuse and neglect.

The Indiana Department of Education sent a memorandum to districts notifying them about a new law, which goes into effect July 1, which states any school corporation, including charters and nonpublic schools, may not establish a policy that restricts or delays a school employee’s duty to report alleged child abuse or neglect.

Scott Syverson, Chief Talent Officer for the Indiana Department of Education, said teachers and school staff must also notify police or the Indiana Department of Child Services about the allegations.

In the past, some teachers have only notified their principals about the suspected abuse.

“Essentially what this does is say districts can no longer do that,” said Syverson. “Everybody is a reporter.  So even if you tell your principal, which you should do, but it doesn’t relieve the obligation for you as a teacher to report it.”

Some teachers have failed to report to police or DCS because of confusion over whose duty it was to report the information, while others may have been fearful of filing a report to law enforcement.

“I think that’s how those things got missed,” said Syverson. “They felt ‘hey, I told my building principal, and I no longer have to worry about that.’ So, this eliminates that option.”

Indianapolis Public Schools, Mt. Vernon in Hancock County and other school districts have faced scrutiny for failing to report suspected abuse.

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The memo also reminds school employees that failing to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a crime, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“Simply telling another employee at a school is not enough to protect yourself from criminal charges,” read the memo from IDOE Staff Attorney Kelly Bauder. “It only takes a minute to report suspected child abuse and neglect, and you can report anonymously.”

Per the new law, the Indiana Department of Education is developing model policies that will be made available on the agency’s website.

IPS spokesperson Carrie Black said the new law would not affect the way IPS is already doing things.

“We've already practiced this type of first responder reporting,” said Black. “Teachers, staff members, etc. report suspicion of child abuse/neglect immediately without delay of informing the principal, counselor or anyone else first.” 

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An IPS policy titled “Procedures for Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect” says all school personnel has a duty to report child abuse allegations to Child Protective Services, and school staff should immediately call the state hotline at 1-800-800-5556.

The policy also states if an employee can’t figure out what to do, they should call the Title IX coordinator or the assistant superintendent for human resources.

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