School employees who fail to report child abuse may face tougher penalties for failing to report such incidents to DCF or the police as a result of a law passed by the General Assembly.
Public Act 15-205, An Act Protecting School Children, increases, from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony, the penalty for a mandated reporter who fails to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), if the (1) violation is a subsequent violation; (2) violation is willful, intentional, or due to gross negligence; or (3) a mandated reporter had actual knowledge of the abuse, neglect, or sexual assault.
The Act expands the reporting requirement for school employees and subjects violators to the penalties described above. It also clarifies that the mandated reporter law protection applies to high schools students who are over age 18. The Act requires school employees to report to DCF suspected sexual assault of any student who is not enrolled in adult education by a school employee. It also establishes the factors on which a mandated reporter may base his or her suspicion. Under the Act, it is a class D felony for anyone, other than a child or a student who is not enrolled in adult education, to intentionally and unreasonably interfere with or prevent such reporting or conspire to attempt to do so.
By law, (1) DCF must make available educational and refresher training for all mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect and (2) school employees must participate in the training course when hired and the refresher training every three years. Under the Act, the principal for each school under the jurisdiction of a local or regional board of education now must annually certify to the superintendent that school employees complete such training and the superintendent must certify compliance to the State Board of Education (SBE).
The Act extends DCF’s investigation and notification requirements under existing law in reported child abuse or neglect cases to include cases of reported sexual assault of students by school employees.
It requires each local or regional board to (1) update its written policy, by February 1, 2016, to include the new school employee reporting requirements and (2) establish a confidential rapid response team, by January 1, 2016, to coordinate with DCF to ensure prompt reporting. It also prohibits the boards from hiring noncompliant or convicted employees who were terminated or who resigned and requires SBE to revoke the certification, permit, or authorization of anyone convicted of certain crimes.
In addition, it (1) expands the list of suspected sexual assault crimes that school employees must report to DCF; (2) establishes the factors upon which a mandated reporter’s suspicion or belief may be based; (3) applies the original Act’s enhanced penalty of a class E felony to specific circumstances; (4) exempts children and any students who are not enrolled in adult education from the crime of interference with a mandated reporter’s duty to report; (5) extends DCF’s existing child abuse and neglect investigation and notification requirements to reported sexual assault cases; (6) eliminates the underlying Act’s provisions on SBE’s noncompliance investigation, the related forfeiture of state grants, and the child abuse and neglect investigation account; (7) establishes the membership of the confidential rapid response team; (8) broadens the range of criminal convictions for which rehiring is prohibited and the state’s attorney notification is required; and (9) makes various technical and conforming changes.
Effective Date: October 1, 2015; however, a provision on DCF’s training program (§1); provisions on rapid response teams (§9); rehiring prohibitions (§12 & 13) are effective July 1, 2015.