Indiana changes school child abuse reporting procedures

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Indiana school employees are now required to report suspected child abuse or neglect directly to the Department of Child Services or local law enforcement instead of first notifying a school administrator.

Republican State Sen. Mark Messmer of Jasper co-authored the legislation. He told the Tribune Star of Terre Haute that the change was made because of a history of issues being swept under the rug and not reported.

Prior to the law, school employees first had to report suspected abuse to the school’s principal or the principal’s designee.

The law said schools can’t create a policy that would restrict or delay an employee from reporting suspected abuse in any way.

The change emphasizes “all of us having firsthand responsibilities to protect kids,” said Teresa Meredith, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association.

She said it’s better to “err on the side of caution” and report rather than “find out later that something horrible happened.”

The Vigo County School Corp. in Terre Haute is working on changing its policy to comply with the new state law. The proposed policy change had its first reading on July 17 and will have two more readings before being finalized.

The policy “needs to be clear that the person who observes or has reason to believe or has evidence that supports the child has been abused has to report to authorities first, then to the principal,” said school board member Jackie Lower.

The law also requires schools to start providing age-appropriate child abuse education to children in kindergarten through 12th grade.

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