When a Georgia high school student approached the school’s counselor to report repeated sexual advances from her teacher last spring, it took school officials four days to inform state child welfare officials about the allegations of abuse, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Records describe a breakdown in communication between the principal and the district’s human resources department, plus a critical misinterpretation of the state law that requires school administrators to report suspected abuse within 24 hours.
The case illustrates the confusion swirling around the Mandated Reporter Law, which was recently expanded to school and church volunteers. Throughout metro Atlanta, school officials are stepping up training and want to send a clear message to employees: If you don’t report suspected child abuse within 24 hours, you could lose your job and face up to a year of jail time. As a result of the latest incident, a longtime educator with the district retired as the high school’s principal and was charged with a misdemeanor that she failed to report the allegations against the teacher in time. The teacher resigned and was arrested on one count of felony sexual battery and two counts of misdemeanor battery.