Starting with this 2012-2013 school year anyone who volunteers at schools or agencies that involve children must be aware of the expanded Mandated Reporter Law passed by the Georgia General Assembly last session.
Mandated reporters are required to report suspicions of child abuse and the designation has long included teachers and school staff. However, it now includes many new classifications of people such as school volunteers (chaperones for field trips, PTA/PTO members, classroom readers, etc.), parks and recreation workers, and even clergy.
To assist volunteers in understanding their role and increase their awareness of the signs of abuse, the district adapted presentation materials prepared by the state for a video and developed a handout that tells volunteers what to look for and what to do if a child does disclose that they are being abused.
Staff at the district’s schools will post notification of the law and provide the handouts to volunteers and groups such as PTO and booster groups.
“This adjustment in the law is a good one,” said Craig Harper, chief administrative officer. “While I think most adults involved with our students already would report suspicions of abuse, this mandate ensures there is another layer of follow-up.”
Lead Social Worker Jackie Taylor agrees. “It takes into account that you don’t know who a child will disclose to. You never know who they’ll tell. They may come in one morning and tell the first adult they see and that person might be a volunteer. This helps the adults know what they need to do with this information.”
If abuse is detected or disclosed by a child, it must be reported as soon as possible – and no later than 24 hours. Child abuse that is not reported is a misdemeanor in Georgia. To protect those who make notification of suspected abuse, there is no punishment to the person who makes the report if the claim of abuse turns out to be false.
“As a mandated reporter it takes away the decision making,” Harper said. “There’s no question about ‘is this really abuse or not?’ Report it and then experienced staff with DFCS will review and investigate.”
Taylor said if a child does tells an adult that they are abused, it’s best if the adult writes down details of what the child tells them without trying to investigate on their own. Then, the person should report the disclosure to a counselor, administrator or school social worker within 24 hours.
To view the mandated reporter presentation, the informational handout, or the notification to volunteers, visit http://daltonpublicschools.com/mandated_reporter_training.
If you have any questions, you may call either Craig Harper at (706) 876-4071 or Jackie Taylor at (706) 876-4506.
By Lindsey Derrick, Dalton Public Schools Contributor