The job of being a teacher is a multi-faceted one. Not only does a teacher need to instruct curriculum, but they often act as parents, nurses, and counselors. In addition to educating students, a teacher must be vigilant in assessing the needs of each student.
When a teacher suspects that a child may be at risk for child abuse or neglect, they have a legal responsibility to report their suspicions to the Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), formerly known as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). Failure to report the abuse can result in hefty fines and in some cases, jail time. Teachers can also be held liable for harm that occurs to the child if they fail to report suspected abuse.
Teachers spend their days with children and because of this, an educator is considered a mandatory reporter. Teachers, doctors, day care workers, school administrators, and other professionals who have regular contact with children in their line of work are mandated by law to report any and all suspected child abuse or neglect.
New Jersey requires anyone and everyone to report suspected child abuse or neglect to DCPP officials immediately. Teachers have close contact with their students and are often first to notice signs that point to suspected abuse. Consistent monitoring of the child’s physical and emotional appearance and health will help the educator identify a child at risk.
In some school systems, administrative policies mandate that a teacher contact the school administration before making a call to DCPP. While teachers need to abide by their school’s policies, these policies do not excuse them from their legal responsibility to report suspected abuse. Even when school administration disagrees with the teacher’s assessment, it is the responsibility of the teacher to contact DCPP and allow them to decide whether their suspicions are warranted.
Signs of Abuse or Neglect in Students
It is not unusual to see a child come to school every so often with unfinished homework, soiled clothes, or upset about an incident at home. Problems come when a student consistently comes to school unprepared, malnourished, or with unexplained injuries. Common signs of abuse or neglect include:
- Unexplained bruises, cuts, or burn injuries
- Soiled or torn clothing
- Dirty hair or poor hygiene
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Falling asleep in school
- Excessive absences
- Children consistently picked up late from school
- Lack of parental support
- Malnourishment and failure to provide food for breakfast and lunch
- Unusual worrying by a child about going home or being alone after school
- Lethargy and withdrawn
Signs of child abuse and neglect are consistent and noticeable. At times the signs can be subtle, but with careful observation, teachers can identify children that may be at risk. When an educator reports suspected abuse, DCPP officials will investigate their claims to see if further investigation is necessary.
South Jersey DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Counsel Clients in Cases Regarding of Child Abuse and Neglect
If you suspect child abuse or neglect, or if you have been contacted by DCPP because your child has been identified as a child at risk, contact a South Jersey DCPP lawyer at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker at 856-795-9400, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our Cherry Hill offices serve clients throughout South Jersey, including those in the areas of Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees, New Jersey.