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updated: Aug 08, 2012, 2:22 PM
Source: Santa Barbara District Attorney
Our office recently filed criminal charges against two school administrators who we alleged failed to
fulfill their legal duties to report child sex abuse to law enforcement. The case, which is now in court,
involves two high-school girls who allegedly were sexually assaulted by fellow students. We recognize
that this case may raise questions in some people's minds as to who is obligated to report such abuse,
and under what circumstances.
Vulnerable victims are often victimized because they are vulnerable to repeated acts of assault, abuse or
neglect. Many times victims, in general, but more often vulnerable victims are reluctant to tell the police
what happened due to fear, trauma, embarrassment, or even guilt. But many will provide clues or details
of their victimization to someone outside of law enforcement. Vulnerable victims often choose someone
who is not a parent, guardian, or relative with whom to share their experience. And it's not unusual for
such victims to ask the people they confide in never to tell anyone.
In some cases, the victim‘s request for secrecy must be denied because California law designates
"mandatory reporters." Mandatory reporters are individuals who are legally obligated to report
suspected cases of abuse, assault or neglect to law enforcement. If the receiver of the information is a
mandatory reporter and the infomation s/he receives meets the criteria below, then s/he faces criminal
penalties by failing to contact law enforcement immediately and make a report. The reason for this is to
protect the present and potential vulnerable victim and to discourage individuals who are not
adequately trained in the investigation of such matters from assuming a role they are ill-equipped to
So who is a mandatory reporter? The list is lengthy and includes a wide variety of positions in education,
youth recreation, child services, public services, counseling and the clergy. Some examples include
teachers and instructors, in both public and private schools; librarians; bus drivers; youth counselors;
day-care workers; social workers; probation officers; law enforcement officers; firefighters; doctors;
nurses and other medical personnel; alcohol and drug counselors; priests, ministers and rabbis (except
information gained during "penitential communication"). (Penal Code section 11165."/(a).)
These are just examples. The entire list is available on our website: http://www.countyfofsb.org/da.
The next question is what must be reported? Generally, the acts that must be reported fall under the
headings of neglect, harm/endangerrnent, unlawful corporal punishment and sexual abuse/assault
Neglect means anything involving the intentional or negligent failure to provide adequate food, clothing,
shelter or medical care for a child.
Harm/Endangerment includes any willful harm or injury inflicted upon a child, or conduct that
endangers the child.
Unlawful Corporal Punishment involves cruel and inhuman physical punishment resulting in a traumatic
condition; i.e., bruising, scarring, burns, welts, etc.
Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Sexual Exploitation includes any touching of the intimate parts of the
child, or by the child of the perpetrator, if done for sexual arousal.
People who are mandated reporters sometimes worry about what will happen if they are wrong and it
turns out the person wasn‘t abused or neglected. In those cases, there is no penalty for a mandated
reporter when s/he follows the legal obligation to report. As an incentive to encourage the mandated
reporter to follow the law, the reporter is given absolute immunity from civil or criminal liability from
making the required report, s/he is entitled to confidentiality, and is protected from retaliation or
discipline by his or her employer for making the required report.
Sometimes confusion arises when the child, his/her parents or the mandatory reporter's boss says that
they will make the report. It's important to know that that does not eliminate the obligation of the
mandatory reporter to also report. In short, this obligation cannot be delegated.
All employers of mandated reporters must provide their employees with copies of the relevant reporting
laws, as well as an explanation of their reporting obligations, and the criminal penalties for failing to
report. Any person who requires a license or certificate to practice a profession or occupation defined as
a mandated reporter should also receive similar notification.
The Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Reporting and Civil Protection Act mirrors the above obligations
of, and protections afforded to, the mandated reporters who report suspected abuse, neglect or
abandonment of this vulnerable victim class.
The overall goal of our mandated reporting laws is to channel infomation regarding suspected assaultive
abusive, or neglectful conduct to those agencies that are both trained and adequately equipped to
conduct the necessary investigations. The swift reporting and investigation of such alleged conduct is
essential in preventing future victimization as well as identifying those reports that are unfounded.
Who is a Mandatory Reporter of Child/Elder Abuse or Neglect?
-Teacher, Instructional Aide, Teacher's Aide/Assistant from both public and private schools.
-Classified Employee of any public school; these are employees who are not certified (e. g., library
custodians, bus drivers).
-Supervisor of child welfare, or certified pupil personnel employee from both public and private
-Employee of a county offlce of education or the State Department of Education, whose duties bring the
employee into contact with children on a regular basis.
-An employee of a school district police or security departrnent.
-Any person who is an administrator 01' presenter of, or a counselor in, a child abuse prevention
program in any public or private school.
-Administrator at a public or private day camp.
-Administrator or employee of a public or private youth center, youth recreation program, or youth
-Licensee, an administrator, or an employee of a licensed community care or child day care facility.
-Head Start program teacher.
-Licensing Worker or licensing evaluator employed by an agency responsible for licensing child care
-Employee of a child care institution, including, but not limited to, foster parents, group home
and personnel of residential care facilities.
-Employee or Volunteer of Court Appointed Special Advocate program.
-Child Visitation Monitor.
-Any person providing services to a minor child under §123 O0 ofthe Welfare and Institutions Code.
-Social Worker, probation ofñcer, or parole officer.
-Administrator or Employee of a public or private organization whose duties require direct contact and
supervision of children.
-Any employee of any police department, county Sheriffs department, county probation department, or
county Welfare department.
-Public assistance worker
-Animal control officer, including any person employed by a city, county or city and county, the
purpose of enforcing animal control laws or regulations.
-Humane society officer, including any person appointed or employed by a public or private entity as a
-District Attorney investigator, inspector, or local, child support agency caseworker.
Does not apply when this person is working to represent a minor.
-Firefighter, except for Volunteer firefìghters.
-Physician and surgeon, psychiatrist, psychologist, dentist, resident, intern, podiatrist, chiropractor,
licensed nurse, dental hygienist, Optometrist, marriage and family therapist, clinical social worker,
professional clinical counselor.
-Emergency medical technician I or II, paramedic, or other certified registered psychological assistant.
-Marriage and family therapist trainee / Unlicensed marriage and family therapist intern.
-State or county public health employee who treats a minor for Venereal disease or any other condition.
-Medical examiner or any other person who performs autopsies.
-Commercial Film and Photographic Print Processûrs must report any images depicting a child under the
age of 16 engaged in an act of sexual conduct.
-Alcohol and drug counselor, including any person providing counseling, therapy, or other clinical
Services for a state licensed or certified drug, alcohol, or drug and alcohol treatment program. However,
alcohol or drug abuse, or both alcohol and drug abuse, is not in and of itself a sufficient basis for
reporting child abuse or neglect.
-Clinical counselor trainee or intern.
-Clergy member, including a priest, minister, rabbi, religious practitioner, or similar functionary of a
church, temple, or recognized denomination or organization.
-Custodian of records of a clergy member.
Knowledge or reasonable suspicion acquired by clergy during penitential communication is excepted.
A communication is a Penitential Communication when the clergy member is acting under a vow of
confidentiality imposed by a tenet or custom of the religion.
Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)
2012-08-08 02:58 PM
Penitential Communication is a BS reason not to report child abuse. That aspect of the law needs to be changed, Why would the Church/God want to protect child abusers? The Constitution clearly states the separation of the Church and the State, but this is a case where Church mumbo-jumbo is harming society.
2012-08-08 04:04 PM
946, church mumbo jumbo has been harming society for thousands of years. this is nothing new...
2012-08-08 04:56 PM
I tend to agree with both posters. However, this is not so cut and dry. To force priests to violate that confidentiality would open an entire can of legal worms around freedom of religion. Could you then force jewish and muslim prisoners to eat pork? Its not hard to see how this could snowball out of control.
2012-08-08 05:05 PM
So sad that employees may not realize or fulfill their responsibility/ obligation and not report. Sheesh, I've been a drone clerk at more than one job that required me and others at my level to report.
Religion? Won't go there.Not to mention Boys Scouts of America.
The school administrators in the St. Joseph case, and SO many others, are wrong, wrong, WRONG and deserve punishment.
2012-08-09 11:38 AM
I don't think that mandating reporting of child sexual abuse by priests would lead to forcing prisoners to eat pork. The goal of mandated reporting is to protect vulnerable victims, and the pork thing ain't in it. We have recently seen the harm caused by excepting the confessional from reporting of this kind, so I think there's a strong argument on the side of keeping the vulnerable safe. The whole reason this works on children is because they won't tell, they are easily intimidated and are used to obeying adults. Churches and church personnel aren't only "religious"; they also function as schools, rehabs, counselors and other social functions.
As I understand it, from reading statements by the Boston Archdiocese, they consider sexual abuse by priests to be an issue between the priest and g-d. The victim hasn't sinned, so he/she can just move along.
2012-08-09 02:09 PM
I usually agree with your thoughtful comments, but not this time. That slippery slope fallacy is also used to suggest that same-sex marriage will lead to people marrying their dogs, etc. Leviticus demands stoning for various actions; if the bible literalists were to actually start taking the bible literally, would they be protected under the free exercise clause? Of course not. The Lemon test defines the limits and acceptability of laws that affect religious exercise: 'First, the statute must have a secular legislative purpose; second, its principal or primary effect must be one that neither advances nor inhibits religion; finally, the statute must not foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."'
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