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Do teachers have a responsibility to address abuse?

When you send your child to school, you are putting them into the care of their teachers. Therefore, you must have faith in the teachers' abilities to care for your child and keep them safe. If your child is being bullied by other students or treated abusively by other teachers, this needs to be taken very seriously.

When you learn that your son or daughter is being treated badly while at school, it is likely that you will want to know more about the teachers' responsibilities when it comes to protecting your child from harm — as well as their responsibilities to report such abuse.

Mandatory reporting laws

Certain people within communities are legally obliged to report suspected abuse of children if they have reason to believe that it is happening. Teachers have this legal obligation, and they could face penalties if they do nothing. For example, teachers must report abuse if they believe that it is occurring at home, but they must also report abuse if they believe that it is happening at school.

What is child abuse under the law?

Most cases of child abuse occur within the child's home. However, teachers can be found guilty of child abuse because they are classed as caregivers who are responsible for the children's well-being while they are attending school. In order for an act to rise to the level of child abuse, it must have been an intentional act that caused either mental or physical harm. For example, threatening violence could be considered to be child abuse.

What are common signs of child abuse?

You child might be afraid or ashamed of telling an adult about the abuse they experienced from a teacher or student. However, changes in appetite, nightmares and bedwetting, unexplained injuries, or anxiety or depression can be red flags for child abuse at school.

If you are concerned about your child's safety at school, it is important that you take immediate action. The administrators at your child's school have a legal responsibility to address these cases. If you are dissatisfied with the response that you receive, you may need to take it to the next level of accountability, e.g., the superintendent of the school and/or the Board of Education.

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