How You Can Help Protect Children
Teachers, counselors, administrators and other school employees are all in a position to make a direct and positive difference in a child’s life by learning how to recognize and report child abuse and neglect. Not surprising, you are the most frequent reporters of abuse, since you see these children daily in your classrooms and may notice physical signs of abuse or neglect, changes in the child’s behavior, or emotional reactions in the course of the school day. You play an important role in a child’s life and often represent a safe place for child victims to disclose abuse, particularly when the abuse occurs in the home. You also may interact with parents and caregivers on a regular basis and may notice neglectful or abusive parenting or the absence of a parent’s or caregiver’s involvement in a child’s life. It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of abuse and how to report it. If you see something or suspect abuse, report it.
Teachers and all school employees are considered professional reporters in Texas and are required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect within 48 hours of the initial suspicions of abuse or neglect.
If a child is in immediate danger, call 911. To report abuse, call the Texas Abuse Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-252-5400 or report online at www.TxAbuseHotline.org.
- You have the right and responsibility to report suspected child abuse or neglect free of fear, intimidation, or regret (Texas Family Code 261.110)
- Your report of child abuse or neglect is confidential and immune from civil or criminal liability as long as the report is made in good faith and without malice (Texas Family Code 261.106).
- Teachers and school employees making reports of suspected abuse or neglect are not required by law to first report the suspicion to a peer, colleague, or supervisor.
- Teachers and school employees may not delegate the duty to report suspected abuse or neglect to any other person (Texas Family Code 261.101(b)).
- When making a report, answer all questions as thoroughly as possible and provide detailed and descriptive information about the situation you are reporting to allow the Texas Abuse Hotline to accurately assess the need for investigation.
- If you request that your identity be kept confidential, DFPS may not reveal your identity to the child’s parents, to alleged perpetrators, or to others without your consent or a court order. However, DFPS may disclose your identity to the district attorney or law enforcement if the case requires further investigation.
- When responding to an outcry, let the child use his or her own words to tell you what happened, but leave the detailed questioning to CPS and law enforcement. This is critical to ensuring the integrity of any investigation and minimizing additional trauma to the child.
- You have the same rights and responsibilities as faculty and staff.
- Ensure all new personnel are formally trained on how to recognize and report child abuse and neglect in accordance with Texas Education Code 38.0041.
- Ensure training opportunities related to recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect are available for all personnel on an annual basis.
- CPS or law enforcement may visit your campus during the course of an investigation. Avoid the use of public media (e.g. intercoms) to notify the appropriate staff or students.
- Establish a known, private location within your campus where both reporters and/or students can confidentially meet with CPS or law enforcement.
- Take steps to protect the confidentiality and anonymity of the report by not discussing the report or reporter. You are not required to disclose knowledge of a report to a parent or caregiver. If asked, you may choose to deny any knowledge of the report.
- Avoid implementing policies that require faculty and staff to consult with administration or other staff before they make a report of child abuse or neglect. Leave the detailed questioning and investigation to CPS and law enforcement.
- It is the responsibility of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Child Protective Services (CPS) to investigate suspected abuse or neglect.
- You will get a Call Identification Number (Call ID) each time you make a report to the Texas Abuse Hotline, unless you report anonymously.
- Not all reports of child abuse or neglect will be assigned for investigation by CPS because some will not meet the statutory definition of abuse or neglect or because the allegation of abuse or neglect is not within CPS’ jurisdiction to investigate.
- If the report is assigned for investigation, a CPS caseworker must initiate an investigation within 24 to 72 hours depending upon the priority assigned to the case. Upon Completion of the investigation, a reporter will receive a notification of findings letter.
- All reports made to the Texas Abuse Hotline or website are also sent to the appropriate law enforcement agency for possible criminal investigation.
- If you have concerns about the investigation, you can file a complaint with the Office of Consumer Affairs by calling 1-800-720-7777 or emailing: [email protected].
With the internet and social media becoming part of everyone’s lives, education professionals must be aware of the risks and dangers of online communication tools – for themselves and their students. Social media sites such as Facebook, for example, may be used to share private images with friends and to engage students in a discussion about a reading assignment. As educators continue to embrace these tools, it is important that they learn to use them safely. Improper or incautious usage may have consequences for educators which include embarrassment, ridicule and job termination.
Even after the school bell rings, educators’ actions may be seen as representative of their school and their profession. In fact, many states demand that teachers uphold a certain level of conduct whether inside or outside of the classroom. With the rise of social media use, “outside of the classroom” has come to include teachers’ posts to personal social media sites, blogs, image-sharing sites, and other online communication sites.
Educators should remember that content shared online can easily become public.
- Do not “friend” colleagues, students and parents or give them access to personal blogs and image-sharing sites
- Do not post anything that is negative or divulges sensitive information, or information that could be used to individually identify a student
- Do not post content about sex, alcohol or anything else that you wouldn’t want your students, their parents or administrators to see
Many educators are using Internet communication tools in their lesson plans. While the benefits are numerous, they should be vigilant against unprofessional contact with students online. Otherwise, educators may face legal consequences in addition to jeopardizing their employment.
- Do not engage in inappropriate teacher-student relations, in person or on social media. Sexual abuse, sexual assault, harassment and cyberbullying are against the law and you will be prosecuted.
- Discuss proper etiquette for communicating online with your students, including your guidelines for acceptable language and content.
- Warn students that online communications are being logged and saved.
- Let students know that you must report disclosures of maltreatment or illegal activities to school administrators.
- Get parents’ consent before using online communication tools
- Invite parents to view class pages and other online communications where appropriate
Thinking of using social media in the classroom? Why not try these sites designed specifically for schools?
|Instead of Facebook||try Edmodo|
|Instead of Wikipedia||try Wikispaces for Educators|
|Instead of YouTube||try SchoolTube|
|Instead of Twitter||try Twiducate|
“Cyberbaiting” is when a person secretly takes a cell phone picture or video of another person as a deliberate attempt to provoke, harass, bully, or extort a certain behavior from the person in the photo. In some cases, students may “cyberbait” another student to coerce the student to do something. In other cases, students may engage in “sexting” by sharing a personal photograph of them. In both cases, these photos or videos may quickly be shared to hundreds of other students, teachers, parents and others in the community. Photos and videos can be posted online where anyone may see them.
Make it clear to students that this behavior is against school policy and could lead to a criminal offense. Know your school’s cell phone policy and make it clear that you will enforce the consequences. Talk to your students about privacy and respect to help them understand why taking cell phone pictures and videos without permission is wrong.
NetSmartz ® Workshop and Club Penguin ® have teamed up to offer a self-paced, online training program to help you teach Internet safety and prepare kids to be better digital citizens. Training covers the issues of:
- Digital Literacy & Ethics
- Inappropriate Content
- Online Sexual Solicitation
- Online Privacy
Workshops are designed for educators, library media specialists, law enforcement officers and youth group leaders who teach children ages 5 – 17 years old. Upon completion of the one-hour workshop, you will receive a certificate you can use to apply for continuing education credits.
Netsmartz® Student Project Kits helps students in grades 6-12 teach their peers and younger students about topics like cyberbullying, online privacy and digital ethics. The kit’s projects are divided by grade and topic to help students pick the best activity for their audience. Students can:
- Give presentations
- Perform skits
- Lead classroom activities
*NetSmartzWorkshop in cooperation with the American Federation of Teachers. www.NetSmartz.org.
Be supportive of the child but do not promise the child anything that is beyond your control. Listen to the child and ask only enough follow up questions to make a report. You will need to know the family’s location or contact information; the alleged perpetrator’s name, relationship to the child and access to the child; and the type of abuse – sexual, physical, emotional or neglect.
In addition, you will need to find out the child’s feelings about returning to the home that day.
If there is no danger of the child going home to an alleged abuser, immediately make a report to CPS (1-800-252-5400) or the school’s law enforcement officer. The earlier the report is called in, the better.
If the child may go home that afternoon or evening to an alleged abuser, call your school’s law enforcement personnel immediately. They can make decisions regarding the child’s immediate safety and can expedite the reporting process. You will still need to make a report to CPS (1-800-252-5400).
If the incident occurred on school property, call both CPS and the school’s law enforcement officer. A report must be made to the law enforcement agency assigned to your school immediately.
No. The child should only have to tell their story to one person at the school – YOU! Do not allow multiple school personnel to interview the child.
Regardless of who the abuser is, you should not notify the child’s parents of the child’s disclosure or tell them that a report was made. Schools should never contact parents regarding suspicions, even if CPS or law enforcement is detaining the child. Let the assigned investigator contact the parents or the child might be in danger and the case could be seriously compromised.