Not reporting sexual assault at a California high school led to the arrest of two campus administrators, frightening and confusing employees of educational institutions across the country. Administrators, faculty, teachers, and employees have reporting obligations at both colleges and K12s. In many instances, obligations under Mandatory Reporting and Law Enforcement Reporting overlap, often confusing individuals about what needs to be reported and to whom.
Let’s take a look:
Mandatory reporting is a requirement governed by state law that requires certain individuals who work with minors to report to a designated state agency when they suspect child abuse and/or child neglect. In most states, mandatory reporting is highly regulated, with many requirements and penalties, including in some states:
- Requiring ALL employees of K12 schools to report suspected child abuse/neglect and requiring annual training on mandatory reporting obligations
- Reporting is anonymous, in that the government entity will not advise anyone in a future investigation about who reported (NOTE: the government agency will take your name and role at the school but will not divulge to any party).
- Reporters are not obligated to advise their schools about the report (although some schools have employee reporting requirements)
- Reporters are protected against legal action for reporting and states often provide legal protection for the employees who report.
- Failure to report can result in legal action against an individual with this obligation who fails to act and can include fines and jail terms.
Reporting Crimes to Law Enforcement
Employees of an educational institution may also have requirements about reporting potential crimes directly to law enforcement under specified circumstances. For example, in some states, any crime perpetrated against a minor that gets reported to a school official must be reported to law enforcement. In other states, allegations of specific crimes must be reported to local law enforcement, regardless of the age of the alleged victim and/or perpetrator.
Title IX Reporting
Conversely, Title IX reporting requirements are administrative obligations that are guided by Title IX law and the institution’s own policies and procedures. These obligations require employees to report matters of sexual harassment (sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating and domestic violence and stalking) to the Title IX Coordinator. For colleges, there is some flexibility in who is required to report. For K12 school districts, ALL employees must report.
Mandatory Reporting, Law Enforcement Reporting and Title IX Reporting often overlap, requiring employees to report externally and internally and, as a result, employees believe they have met their obligations when in fact they have not. How can we help employees understand this better?
- Let’s train everyone so they understand what needs to be reported and to whom. If you are relying on online training only, ensure that it covers YOUR institution’s policies and procedures.
- Let’s make the reporting mechanisms as simple as possible (online, via text, links to QR codes).
- Let’s recognize that reporting is a confusing issue and employees need support to ensure compliance.