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Child abuse reporting failures in schools: a matter of policy?

In a recent story, Mercury News reporters Julia Prodis Sulek and Sharon Noguchi asked why some school personnel don’t report complaints of child abuse, especially when they involve a colleague. Here’s the crux of their report:

From Moraga to Palo Alto to San Jose, child sex abuse cases in schools and day care centers have surfaced alleging that school employees entrusted with the safety of students failed to do what their oaths and the law required: report to police or child protective services when they have a reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused.

Child advocates blame a lack of courage and a lack of training.

“It’s not so much about protecting people, but not having the leadership ability to step up,” said Margaret Petros, a commissioner on the Santa Clara County Child Abuse Council. “People in general want to get along and not rock the boat.”

Their piece followed the latest developments in the Jerry Sandusky scandal and apparent cover-up at Penn State; it also came in the wake of a series of investigative reports by Bay Area News Group staffers Matthias Gafni and Malaika Fraley that uncovered another dark story (stories, really) that happened at a school much closer to home, at Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School in the sleepy town of Moraga. You should really read their work, if you haven’t.

Today, Congressman George Miller announced he was asking the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to examine the effectiveness of current laws and policies on child abuse reporting. Continue Reading