We previously reported that Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon filed misdemeanor charges against a principal and a teacher at two elementary schools in East Aurora School District 131 for failing to report suspected child abuse to the Department of Children and Family Services.
On Tuesday, September 10, 2019, a jury convicted the District 131 teacher of a Class A misdemeanor for her failure to report suspected child abuse to DCFS. As a mandated reporter, the teacher was required by the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (“ANCRA”) to report or cause a report to be made to the child abuse hotline whenever she had reasonable cause to believe that a child known to her in her professional or official capacity may be abused or neglected. Her failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect to DCFS resulted in a guilty verdict. The teacher is due in court on November 13 for sentencing. She faces a sentence ranging from probation to up to 364 days in jail.
Following the conviction, State’s Attorney McMahon stated, “Mandated reporters are obligated by law to report suspected child abuse. If the life and well-being of a child is at stake, it is not too much to ask. I hope this verdict sends a clear and strong message that there are consequences for those who do not take this obligation seriously.” In the past, misdemeanor charges were hardly, if ever, filed against school employees who failed to properly report. McMahon is reversing that trend. Although the charges against the District 131 Principal are still pending, he resigned from his position on August 20, 2019.
The key takeaway is that the ANCRA is not a voluntary law. School staff members must take seriously their obligation to immediately report to the DCFS hotline suspected child abuse.
Relatedly, the ANCRA was recently amended. On August 23, 2019, Governor Pritzker signed Senate Bill 1778 into law as Public Act 101-564, effective January 1, 2020. The law amends the ANCRA and restates the list of mandated reporters required to report suspected child abuse and neglect to DCFS. Of most relevance, “educational personnel” still are mandated reporters. Where multiple people have reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred, as is often the case in school settings, the law now specifically allows for one person to be designated to make the call to DCFS and file the follow-up report with DCFS. The designated reporter has to confirm in writing to the others that DCFS has been called. If the other mandated reporters do not receive such notice, they still are obligated to individually call DCFS. The law also requires that mandated reporters complete their training within three months of their hire, and at least every three years thereafter. However, schools are encouraged to require this training annually.
Contact Cindi DeCola, Tina Christofalos, or Caitlin Frenzer with your mandated-reporter inquiries.