Moving on up

September 20, 2011

By Angela Liddle

Teachers and other school personnel, like anyone in PA who works with children, are required to report suspected child abuse. Although required by law to make the report, teachers and other school personnel are not required to receive training on how and when to report. When you think about the fact that school personnel spend more awake time with the majority of children than any other professional group, it seems crazy that there would not already be a requirement to make sure they are well trained on their role and responsibility to report. There is an entire process for certification of teachers and continuing education requirements but nowhere is it specified that some of the continuing education must be about child abuse. The Senate Appropriations Committee took us one step closer to bridging that gap by moving Senate Bill 449 out of committee on Monday.

Senate Bill 449, sponsored by Senator Pat Vance, R-Cumberland and York counties, requires the Department of Public Welfare, in consultation with the Department of Education, to establish a child abuse recognition and reporting program for teachers and other mandated reporters employed by or under contract to schools.

School employees would be required to complete a minimum of three hours of training every five years. In addition to teachers, school-employed social workers, guidance counselors, school nurses, and administrators would be covered. Education professionals would receive Act 48 credits for participating in training.

The proposed law would apply to public school districts, intermediate units, vocational-technical schools, charter schools, and private schools.

Pennsylvania officials received more than 24,600 reports of suspected child and student abuse in 2010. According to the state Department of Public Welfare, mandated reporters, the majority of whom are school employees, account for 77 percent of all substantiated reports of abuse in Pennsylvania.

A huge thank you goes out to Senator Vance, members of the Aging and Youth and Appropriation Committees and all of our partners for your support of this bill. Please contact your legislators and ask them to support this bill to help our teachers, guidance counselors, principals and support staff protect our kids from abuse and neglect. Not sure who is your legislator? Use this link. Find My Legislator