EFFECTIVE DATE: 6/7/17
CANCEL SHEET DATED: NEW
REPORTING CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
A. Child abuse or neglect. Child abuse or neglect is defined by Maine law as “threat to a child’s health or welfare by physical, mental or emotional injury or impairment, sexual abuse or exploitation, deprivation of essential needs or lack of protection from these, or failure to ensure compliance with school attendance requirements under Title 20-A” (specifically when a child who is at least seven years of age and has not completed grade six, has the equivalent of seven full days of unexcused absences or five consecutive school days of unexcused absences during a school year).
B. Person responsible for the child. A “person responsible for the child” means a person with responsibility for a child’s health or welfare, whether in the child’s home or another home or a facility which, as part of its function, provides for the care of the child. It includes the child’s parent, guardian or other custodian.
II. EMPLOYEES’ DUTY TO REPORT
A. Any employee of the school unit who has reason to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected must immediately notify the school social worker, who shall process the report as provided in Section III of this policy. In addition to notifying the building principal both verbally and in writing, the social worker may also make a report directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) or the District Attorney/Law Enforcement.
B. If the employee is not able to reach the social worker or building principal, the employee shall make an immediate report directly to DHHS and, if the person suspected is not a person responsible for the child, to the District Attorney. In such cases, the employee must then complete a copy of the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Form and give it to the school social worker and building principal as soon as possible.
III. ADMINISTRATOR REPORTING AND CONFIRMATION DUTIES
A. All building administrators, the Superintendent, school social workers, and the school nurse are designated agents to make child abuse and neglect reports.
B. The Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Form will be forwarded to DHHS and/or the District Attorney, and shall be retained by the school unit for ten years, as specified in the Maine Archives Rules, along with any other information relevant to the case.
- REPORTING PROCEDURES
The verbal/written report shall include the following information, if known:
A. The name and address of the child and the persons responsible for his/her care or custody;
B. The child’s age and sex;
C. The nature and extent of the alleged abuse or neglect, including description of injuries and any explanation given for them;
D. A description of alleged sexual abuse or exploitation, if any;
E. Family composition and evidence of prior abuse or neglect of the child or his/her siblings;
F. The source of the report, the person making the report, his/her occupation and where he/she can be contacted;
G. Any actions taken by school staff, including any photographs taken or other materials collected; and
H. Any other information the person making the report believes may be helpful.
The school social worker shall complete the Suspected Child Abuse/Neglect Report and call to report to the statewide hotline for the Child Protective Services division of DHHS.
V. INTERNAL INVESTIGATIONS AND DISCIPLINE
- Employees. If the person suspected of abuse or neglect is an employee, the Superintendent/designee shall investigate and take appropriate action, in accordance with applicable Board policies, collective bargaining contracts, and federal and state laws.
- Students. If the person suspected of abuse or neglect is a student, and the abuse or neglect occurred on school premises, during a school activity, or is otherwise related to the school, the Superintendent/designee shall investigate and take appropriate action, in accordance with applicable Board policies and federal and state laws.
VI. INTERVIEWS OF CHILD AND SCHOOL PERSONNEL
DHHS personnel shall be permitted to meet with and interview the child named in the report when the child is present at school as provided in this section. The building administrator or designee shall:
A. Require the DHHS employee to sign in, to provide a copy of his/her name badge for the school to keep on file, and to provide written certification that in the Department’s judgment, the interview is necessary to carry out its duties;
B. Require the DHHS employee to provide additional paperwork from the state with a supervisor's signature if parents do not have knowledge of the interview or have not signed consent for the DHHS employee to interview the student on school grounds;
C. Require the DHHS caseworker to discuss the circumstances of the interview and any relevant information regarding the alleged abuse or neglect with the child’s teacher, guidance, school nurse, social worker or building administrator as the caseworker deems is necessary to provide needed emotional support to the child prior to and following the interview;
D. Not place conditions on how the interview is conducted, including, but not necessarily limited to requiring that certain persons be present during the interview; prohibiting certain persons from being present during the interview; and requiring notice to or consent from a parent or guardian;
E. Provide an appropriate, quiet and private place for the interview; and
F. Not disclose any information about DHHS’s intention to interview the child except to school officials or the school’s attorney who need the information to comply with the interview request.
School personnel who assist DHHS in making a child available for an interview are regarded as participating in a child protection investigation or proceeding for the purpose of immunity from liability.
VII. CONFIDENTIALITY OF INFORMATION AND RECORDS
All records, reports and information concerning alleged cases of child abuse and neglect shall be kept confidential to the extent required by Board policies and applicable law. The school social worker shall retain a record of all verbal and written reports made to DHHS and/or the District Attorney. The social worker will provide the building principal with a written record of all mandated reports. The principal's report will be kept confidential as mandated by law and Board policy.
The building administrator/designee is permitted to release a child’s school records without prior consent of the parent/guardian to DHHS or law enforcement officials as necessary to protect the health or safety of the child or other individuals under federal law.
Any school unit employee who is required to make a report shall, at least once every four years, complete mandated training approved by DHHS. The DHHS training is available online at http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/cps/.
IX. GOOD FAITH IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY
Any person who in good faith reports, assists DHHS in making the child available for an interview, or participates in the investigation or proceedings of a child protection investigation is immune from any criminal or civil liability for the act of reporting or participating in the investigation or proceeding. Good faith does not include instances when a false report is made and the person knows the report is false.
Legal Reference: 22 MRSA Chap. 1071, Child and Family Services and Child Protection Act
Me. P.L. Ch. 407 (2016)
20 USC § 1232g, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
20-A M.R.S.A. §§ 5051-A(1)(C); 5051-A(2)(C)
Cross Reference: ACAA – Harassment and Sexual Harassment of Students
JLF-E – Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Report Form
JRA – Student Records