Should Teachers Report Child Abuse and Neglect?

September 13, 2023
Moorestown DYFS Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Provide Experienced Representation
Moorestown DYFS Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Provide Experienced Representation

New Jersey requires all adults, including teachers, to report any suspected child abuse or neglect. Teachers are mandated by law and Department of Education regulations to report child abuse and neglect if they have reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused by a parent or caregiver. This is known as “mandated reporting.” All school district employees, volunteers, and interns fall under this mandate. School personnel have an essential role as observers because of their daily interactions with children. Failure to report suspected abuse can result in “disorderly person” charges, a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in prison, or both.

Are Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect Identified?

Anyone who calls the Child Abuse Hotline in New Jersey to report a suspected case of abuse or neglect remains anonymous, with their name kept confidential. Any educator who makes a report in good faith is protected from civil or criminal liability, discrimination, and discharge from employment.

Teachers with reasonable cause to believe that a child is being abused or neglected should immediately notify the New Jersey Child Protection and Permanency Agency and then inform the principal or other designated school officials. The school must then contact law enforcement authorities.

What Happens When a Teacher Is Wrong?

The system of mandated reporting requires educators to be able to identify cases of suspected sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect with the possibility of fines and jail if they fail to do so. There is no requirement for tangible proof of abuse. Statistics show that while educators are diligent reporters, their reports are 95 percent less likely to be substantiated than those of other professionals, such as doctors and social workers. It is understandable that educators, as mandated reporters, would want to err on the side of caution rather than let a case of abuse or neglect go unreported. Unfortunately, misreported cases can cause more harm than good.

When a teacher or anyone else reports a case of suspected abuse and neglect to the authorities, it immediately triggers an investigation that can involve a home visit, referrals to community services for parenting support, and eventual removal of the child from the home into foster care or a group residence while a judge delivers a finding on the evidence. While away from their parent or guardian, they may face medical exams and invasive questioning. Referrals from educators damage the relationship between families and teachers and can also force a child to choose between loyalty to their family and a trusted teacher. Even if a report of abuse is resolved quickly and deemed unsubstantiated, the family will have difficulty resuming their relationship with the school and teacher on the same level of trust that existed previously.

Moorestown DYFS Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Provide Experienced Representation

Contact our Moorestown DYFS lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker for compassionate legal counsel and representation if you have been accused of child abuse or neglect. Call 856-210-9776 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.

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