New legislation increases incentive for CA teachers to report child abuse April 15, 2014 — by Shreya Tumu Just up north in the Redwood City School District in Northern California eight staff members failed to report the abuse of two 5-year-old special-education students. And in another incident in the Brentwood Union School District, also up north, 11 teachers failed to tell authorities about an autistic student who was being abused. Just up north in the Redwood City School District in Northern California eight staff members failed to report the abuse of two 5-year-old special-education students. And in another incident in the Brentwood Union School District, also up north, 11 teachers failed to tell authorities about an autistic student who was being abused. This is the difficulty of such situations. Some educators decide it’s best if they don’t say anything. But that’s not true. If they had reported it, the abuse inflicted upon abused children could have been stopped. If only someone were to have said something. California educators are already mandated reporters, but this bill tries to resolve any doubt in a potential reporter's mind. To increase compliance with the mandated reporter law,, California assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) proposed a bill that requires public schools to adopt uniform procedures for detecting and reporting such abuse. This bill was made in response to criminal cases involving California teachers and district employees who failed to report alleged child abuse on campus. The goal of such legislation is to decrease the number of child abuse cases that go unnoticed in California by forcing teachers to be more proactive in reporting child abuse. This bill is certainly a step in the right direction, because it acknowledges the crucial role that teachers play in their students’ lives. For some children, teachers are the only other adults besides parents that students interact with on a regular, almost daily, basis. This gives them an even more vital role in noticing and reporting child abuse. While friends, whom a student may also interact with daily, can be influential in supporting a student, an adult presence is often necessary for handling and resolving such a complicated problem as child abuse. In the past, some teachers may have avoided reporting abuse because they feared the liabilities that could result if they were incorrect. Under Gatto's new law, "All persons that are legally mandated to report suspected child abuse have immunity from criminal or civil liability for reporting as required or authorized by the child abuse and neglect reporting law.” In other words, there is no harm for a mandated reporter if their report turns out to be incorrect. At the same time, though, it is against the law not to report an abuse, as the law also states, “A person who fails to make a required report is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine, or both.” He or she may also be found civilly liable for damages, especially if the child-victim or another child is further victimized because of the failure to report. The primary intent for mandating teachers to report abuse is to protect the child which may in turn also provide protection to other children in the home. The report of abuse under the law may be a catalyst for bringing about change in the home environment, which in turn may lower the risk of abuse. A mandate that requires teachers to report child abuse is necessary and a great thing to better school and home environment for the child.