PA 15-205—sHB 6186

Judiciary Committee

Education Committee

AN ACT PROTECTING SCHOOL CHILDREN

SUMMARY: This act increases, from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony, the penalty for a mandated reporter who fails to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) if the (1) violation is a subsequent violation; (2) violation is willful, intentional, or due to gross negligence; or (3) mandated reporter had actual knowledge of the abuse, neglect, or sexual assault (see Table on Penalties).

The act extends the mandated reporter law's protection to high school students age 18 and older who are not enrolled in an adult education program. It also expands the reporting requirement for school employees and subjects violators to the penalties described above. The act requires school employees to report to DCF suspected sexual assault of any student not enrolled in adult education by a school employee. It also establishes the factors on which all mandated reporters may base their suspicion. Under the act, it is a class D felony for anyone, other than a child or a student not enrolled in an adult education program, to intentionally and unreasonably interfere with or prevent such reporting or conspire or attempt to do so (see Table on Penalties).

By law, (1) DCF must make available educational and refresher training to all mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect and (2) school employees must participate in the training when hired and every three years. Under the act, the principal for each school under the jurisdiction of a local or regional board of education must annually certify to the superintendent that school employees completed such training, and the superintendent must certify compliance to the State Board of Education (SBE).

The act extends DCF's investigation and notification requirements under existing law in reported child abuse or neglect cases to include cases of reported sexual assault of students by school employees.

It requires each local or regional board to (1) update its written policy, by February 1, 2016, to include the new school employee reporting requirements and (2) establish a confidential rapid response team, by January 1, 2016, to coordinate with DCF to ensure prompt reporting. It also prohibits the boards from hiring noncompliant or convicted employees who were terminated or resigned and requires SBE to revoke the certification, permit, or authorization of anyone convicted of certain crimes.

The act also makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015, except that the provisions regarding DCF's training program ( 1); rapid response teams ( 9); rehiring prohibitions ( 10); and SBE's certification, authorization, and permit practices ( 12 & 13) take effect July 1, 2015.

2 & 11 — MANDATED REPORTING

Reporters and Penalties

By law, it is a crime for mandated reporters to fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect to DCF (see BACKGROUND). Under prior law, failure to report was a class A misdemeanor. The act increases this penalty to a class E felony if the:

1. violation is a subsequent violation;

2. violation is willful, intentional, or due to gross negligence; or

3. mandated reporter has actual knowledge that a child was abused or neglected or a student was a victim of sexual assault (see below).

The act expands the reporting requirements for school employees (see BACKGROUND) and subjects violators to the penalties as described above. It requires a school employee to report to DCF if he or she, in the ordinary course of his or her employment or profession, has reasonable cause to suspect or believe that a student enrolled in a technical high school or a school under the local or regional board of education's jurisdiction (other than an adult education program) is a victim of any of the following crimes committed by a school employee: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree sexual assault, 1st degree aggravated sexual assault, or 3rd degree sexual assault with a firearm. The reporter must notify DCF in the same manner and within the same timeframes required of mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect under existing law. Under the act, these victims are children for the purpose of the mandated reporter statutes, including provisions on oral and written reports to DCF, investigatory activities, and notification to law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities ( 3-5, 7, & 8).

Under the act, a mandated reporter's suspicion or belief does not require certainty or probable cause and may be based on observations; allegations; facts; or statements by a child, victim, or third party.

By law, it is a class D felony to intentionally and unreasonably interfere with or prevent a mandated reporter from reporting abuse or neglect. The act specifies that it is a class D felony for anyone, other than a child under age 18 or a student not enrolled in an adult education program, to intentionally and unreasonably interfere with or prevent a mandated reporter from carrying out his or her reporting duty or attempt or conspire to do so.

By law, the DCF commissioner must promptly notify the chief state's attorney if she believes that a mandated reporter failed to make a report.

6 — DCF INVESTIGATION

The act extends the application of DCF's child abuse or neglect investigation and notification requirements to reported sexual assault cases.

By law, within five days after completing an investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect by a school employee, the DCF commissioner must notify the employing superintendent and the education commissioner of the results and provide them with any investigation records. The act requires the DCF commissioner to do the same after completing an investigation of a report of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th degree sexual assault; 1st degree aggravated sexual assault; or 3rd degree sexual assault with a firearm of a student not enrolled in an adult education program by a school employee. The DCF commissioner must do so whether or not the child or the victim is a student in the employing school or school district. Under the act, if the DCF commissioner has reasonable cause to believe that a student is a victim as described above, the superintendent must suspend the reported school employee.

6, 9, & 10 — LOCAL AND REGIONAL SCHOOL BOARDS' PRACTICES

6 — Written Policy

Under prior law, each local and regional board of education had to have a written policy on school employees reporting suspected child abuse or knowingly making false reports of such abuse. The act requires the policy, by February 1, 2016, to also address the reporting of suspected (1) child neglect and (2) the sexual assault crimes noted above.

By law, the board must annually distribute the policy to all school employees and document that they have received it and completed the required training.

9 — Rapid Response Team

Under the act, each local and regional board of education, by January 1, 2016, must establish a confidential rapid response team to coordinate with DCF to:

1. ensure prompt reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect, or the sexual assault crimes noted above and

2. provide immediate access to information and individuals relevant to DCF's investigation of such cases.

The confidential rapid response team must consist of:

1. a local or regional board of education teacher and superintendent,

2. a local police officer, and

3. any other person the board deems appropriate.

The act requires DCF, along with a multidisciplinary team, to take immediate action to investigate and address each report of child abuse or neglect in any school.

6 — Hiring Convicted Former Employees Prohibited

The act prohibits a local or regional board of education from employing anyone who was terminated or resigned after a license suspension based on a DCF investigation, if he or she has been convicted of (1) child abuse or neglect or (2) any of the sexual assault crimes noted above.

10 — Hiring Violators of Mandated Reporting Law Prohibited

The act prohibits a local or regional board of education from employing a school employee who was terminated or resigned, if he or she (1) failed to report the suspicion of such crimes when required to do so or (2) intentionally and unreasonably interfered with or prevented a mandated reporter from carrying out this obligation or conspired or attempted to do so. This applies regardless of whether an allegation of abuse, neglect, or sexual assault has been substantiated.

6, 12, & 13 — STATE'S ATTORNEY NOTICE AND SBE CERTIFICATION REVOCATION

By law, if a school employee, or anyone who holds an SBE-issued certificate, permit, or authorization, is convicted of certain crimes, the state's attorney for the judicial district where the conviction occurred must notify, in writing, the (1) school district's superintendent or private school's supervisory agent and (2) education commissioner. Under prior law, the crimes were limited to:

1. child abuse or neglect,

2. risk of injury to a child, or

3. 2nd or 4th degree sexual assault against anyone.

The act broadens the range of criminal convictions for which the state's attorney's notification is required to include convictions for intentionally or unreasonably interfering with a mandated reporter's reporting duty.

It also adds convictions of a school employee, or anyone who holds an SBE-issued certificate, permit, or authorization, for (1) 1st or 3rd degree sexual assault, (2) 1st degree aggravated sexual assault, or (3) 3rd degree sexual assault with a firearm against a student who is not enrolled in an adult education program.

By law, the education commissioner, upon receipt of the state's attorney's notification, must revoke any such person's certificate, permit, or authorization. The law prohibits the commissioner from issuing or reissuing a certificate, permit, or authorization to such a person.

BACKGROUND

Mandatory Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect

By law, a person is required to report suspected child abuse or neglect within specified timeframes if (1) the person is designated by law as a mandated reporter and (2) in the ordinary course of his or her employment or profession, has reasonable cause to suspect a child under age 18 has:

1. been abused or neglected,

2. suffered a non-accidental physical injury or one inconsistent with the given history of such injury, or

3. been placed at imminent risk of serious harm (CGS 17a-101a).

Mandated Reporter

By law, mandated child abuse reporters are:

1. Connecticut-licensed physicians or surgeons;

2. resident physicians or interns in any Connecticut hospital, whether or not licensed in this state;

3. registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and physician assistants;

4. medical examiners;

5. dentists and dental hygienists;

6. psychologists, social workers, and mental health professionals;

7. school employees;

8. paid youth camp directors or assistant directors;

9. persons age 18 or older who are paid (a) youth athletic coaches or directors; (b) private youth sports organization, league, or team coaches or directors; or (c) administrators, faculty or staff members, athletic coaches, directors, or trainers employed by a public or private higher education institution, excluding student employees;

10. police officers;

11. juvenile or adult probation and parole officers;

12. members of the clergy;

13. pharmacists;

14. physical therapists and chiropractors;

15. optometrists;

16. podiatrists;

17. licensed or certified emergency medical services providers;

18. (a) licensed or certified alcohol and drug counselors, (b) licensed professional counselors, and (c) sexual assault or domestic violence counselors;

19. licensed marital and family therapists;

20. foster parents;

21. (a) child care workers at state-licensed facilities, day care centers, or group or family day care homes and (b) Department of Public Health and Early Childhood Office employees who license these facilities and youth camps;

22. DCF employees;

23. the child advocate and her staff;

24. family relations counselors and trainees; and

25. Judicial Branch family services supervisors (CGS 17a-101(b)).

School Employee

By law, a “school employee” is:

1. a teacher, substitute teacher, school administrator, school superintendent, guidance counselor, psychologist, social worker, nurse, physician, school paraprofessional, or coach employed by a local or regional board of education or a private elementary, middle, or high school or working in a public or private elementary, middle, or high school or

2. any other person who, in the performance of his or her duties, has regular contact with students and who provides services to or on behalf of students enrolled in a (a) public elementary, middle, or high school while under contract with the local or regional board of education or (b) private elementary, middle, or high school while under contract with the supervisory agent of such private school (CGS 53a-65).

Related Act

PA 15-112 (1) requires school officials to remove from a school employee's personnel file and other records any reference to a DCF investigation of a report that the employee abused or neglected a child when DCF cannot substantiate the claim and (2) bars the unsubstantiated report from being used against the employee.

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