The Butler Area School District is among the 38 districts across the state to update policies regarding how child abuse is reported to comply with a 2014 state law.
But not all districts have followed suit.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced Thursday that 244,000 students across Pennsylvania attend school districts that lack updated policies on reporting child abuse, based on a
review by his staff. One district — Susquenita in Perry County — remained without any policy as of Feb. 1, 2019.
“It is completely unacceptable for any district to have an outdated or missing policy dealing with suspected child abuse,” DePasquale said. “The fact that nearly a quarter-million Pennsylvania students attend school districts that lack updated policies is appalling.”
In response to the Jerry Sandusky case, Pennsylvania took steps in 2014 to make sure that no one at the local level could sweep reports of suspected child abuse under the rug. School districts have
had more than four years to update policies that outline the steps staff must take to report suspected child abuse and neglect, and about 79 percent of school districts have done so.
“That leaves 21 percent of districts without an updated policy that requires staff to report child abuse and neglect concerns directly to ChildLine, the state’s child-abuse hotline,” DePasquale said. “This is important because it means their teachers and support staff might not be properly trained to act as the first line of defense against abuse and neglect.”
Last fall, DePasquale began checking every school district to determine if updated policies were in place. As a result of his inquiry, 38 districts either implemented new policies or updated existing ones.
“While I am encouraged that many districts got my wake-up call, I am very troubled to find districts in this situation after having more than four years to get it done,” DePasquale said. “Did these school districts learn nothing from the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal? No child should ever be mistreated. Schools can provide an additional level of protection for kids, but only if personnel are properly trained on recognizing signs of abuse and reporting their concerns to the right place.”
Requirements for child-abuse reporting are contained in both the Public School Code and the Child Protective Services Law. The Public School Code requires that school personnel receive training that directs them to first call ChildLine to report any concern of abuse or neglect, then directs them to inform a designated school official.
The number to reach ChildLine is 1-800-932-0313.
Prior to 2014, when all school personnel who have direct contact with children became mandated reporters, their only requirement was to report abuse or neglect concerns to a supervisor.
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