Bill would add school board members to child abuse mandatory reporter list
Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Most public roles that include contact with children, including state legislator, are on Oregon’s list of mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse – but not school board member.
“That seemed odd to me,” said Sen. Lee Beyer, co-sponsor of a bill to close that loophole.
Beyer, D-Springfield, said he became aware of the omission because of a 2018 scandal in his district. A former Springfield charter school student accused the principal of sexual abuse. Although staff members had had suspicions for more than a decade, nothing was officially reported to authorities until 2018, according to The Register-Guard.
Senate Bill 415 would add school board members, public charter school governing body members and Oregon Department of Education employees to the list of mandatory reporters of child abuse. The law already names professions such as health care workers, child care providers, attorneys and the clergy.
Beyer and Rep. John Lively, co-sponsor of the bill, said that while they were working on the bill, ODE contacted them and asked to be added to the list.
“The bill just covers the fact that adults have to be responsible when they are working around youths,” said Lively, D-Springfield.
Mandatory reporters must tell police or the Department of Human Services if they think a child has been abused physically, sexually or emotionally. Failure to report is a class A violation, usually punishable by a fine.
School staff and administrators are already mandatory reporters, and OSBA Litigation Services offers training on the law’s requirements. SafeSchools, which offers safety and compliance programs, also offers training.
Litigation Services Director Haley Percell said she would be discussing mandatory reporting at OSBA’s Summer Board Conference in July. She said it was important for board members to understand the legal requirements for themselves, as well as for district staff.
OSBA Board Development Director Steve Kelley said his team would look at offering training specifically for school board members.
ODE staff will receive training similar to school districts’, according to ODE Communications Director Marc Siegel.
SB 415 unanimously passed the Senate and easily cleared the House Education Committee on Monday. Next stop is the House floor, where it is expected to pass.
A related bill, HB 2227, would also make animal control officers mandatory reporters because statistics show an increased prevalence of child abuse in homes where animal abuse is occurring.