Series Edited by Rachel Blustain, Rise Contributing Editor
As mandated reporters, school personnel are legally responsible for protecting the children they work with. But as you will read in the first part of the Rise series, “Surveillance Isn’t Safety,” schools play an outsized role in putting families in the child welfare pipeline.
Nationwide, schools are the number one driver of reports of suspected child abuse and neglect to the State Central Registry, accounting for almost 20 percent of calls.
Parents in two Rise writing groups this year documented how solutions other than child welfare involvement could’ve made the difference. In upcoming stories, parents describe:
· Their pleas for help to address a child’s behavioral problems, which school personnel ignored—before calling in a report;
· School personnel calling in a report based on a misunderstanding of a child’s needs, without checking with or believing the parent;
· Schools reporting a parent after a child was harmed at school or using reports to intimidate parents during a conflict.
What these parents actually needed was legal representation in special education proceedings, referrals to family or child therapy, or a safety transfer to protect the child. When a hotline call was made instead of an offer of help, the consequences for the child and family were devastating.
In our communities, parents are afraid to speak openly with school personnel about educational and family challenges. Parents are afraid that sending a child to school without a winter coat will lead to a report, or that advocating for our children’s needs can put our families at risk.
In this series, Rise provides immediate information to support parents facing a school challenge—legal information about mandated reporting, educational neglect and “excessive corporal punishment,” as well as guidance on requesting an IEP and negotiating to meet your child’s needs. We also challenge New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and Department of Education to better inform school personnel about mandated reporting and referrals to community-based services so that they don’t make unnecessary reports.