In 2012, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law expanding the requirements of the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (“Act”). The Act now requires all mandated reporters to report or cause a report to be made to the child abuse hotline whenever they have reasonable cause to believe that a child known to them in their professional or official capacity may be abused or neglected. Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) may result in a Class A misdemeanor.
Despite these mandated reporter requirements, many school staff members frequently fail to report suspected abuse to DCFS. In the past, misdemeanor charges were hardly, if ever, filed against school employees who failed to properly report. However, Kane County State’s Attorney Joe McMahon is looking to reverse that trend. McMahon recently 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, calling their failure to do so “inexcusable.” He went on to compare a school staff member’s failure to report to those who failed to report allegations involving USA gymnastics, Penn State football, and the Catholic Church.
The key takeaway is that the Act is not a voluntary law. School staff members must take seriously their obligation to immediately report to the DCFS hotline suspected child abuse.