Bill raises issues with schools’ child protection responsibilities
Friday, April 7, 2017
Senate Bill 101 would prohibit a school administrator or staff member from notifying anyone about a child abuse investigation in progress on school grounds. Current law already states this for public schools, but the bill would add authorization for students in private schools to be interviewed.
Private schools regularly restrict access because they believe the statute does not apply to them, testified Stacey Ayers, Department of Human Services child safety manager, and the bill was needed to expand the authorization of Child Protective Services to interview a student in private school.
The bill also would call into question districts’ use of a form investigators are required to fill out before interviewing a child. The form is designed to assure the legality and properness of the action, shielding the child from invasive or even harmful contact with people coming to school and wanting to talk to a student, as well as show that the school has performed its duty to protect the child.
“Safety of students is our priority,” testified OSBA Interim Director of Legislative Services Lori Sattenspiel before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. “When investigators or law enforcement come on school grounds to investigate a report of child abuse, the school uses a form with a checklist to be sure the investigator or law enforcement officer has followed the law and has proper documentation before any interview with a student.”
Ayers took issue with the form.
“Many public school districts in varying parts of the state have adopted a process of notifying parents that CPS is there to interview the child,” Ayers said. “School personnel are providing these notifications to the parents who are the alleged perpetrators.This often results in the parent restricting our ability to interview the child, which compromises child safety.”
Sattenspiel said that problem could arise because an investigator refused to fill out the form and the school can’t just blindly hand over its responsibilities for child protection. The form was created to help school districts cooperate with investigators and ensure the district administrator, staff and students are protected, she said.
Before closing the hearing, committee Chair Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-South Lane and North Douglas counties) asked stakeholders to meet with him. He said he wants to make sure specific changes to current law found in ORS 419B.045do not cause unintended consequences