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10.2: What are teachers' rights and responsibilities?

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    By Hillary Childress


    " A good teacher is like a candle-it consumes itself to light the way for others"

    Learning Objectives

    • Students should be able to detect signs of Child abuse and child neglect in a classroom.
    • Students will know the proper procedure of reporting suspicions of child abuse or nelgect.
    • Students will know the 3 types of Child abuse and the statistics on all 3.


    To a student a teacher can be seen as someone they can tell their deepest darkest secrets too. So what happens when a student tells a teacher some information that might suggest child abuse or neglect? Teachers need to know how to handle child abuse suspicions on the legal and ethical level and how to recognize it. Definitions The lines between child abuse and child neglect can get a little hazy sometimes. The Child Welfare Information Gateway has defined child abuse as “ Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk or serious harm” ( Child Welfare Information Gateway,2008) There are 3 different types of Child abuse; physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The Child Welfare Information Gateway also defines the three types of abuse

    • Physical-“is non- accidental physical injury as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting, burning, or otherwise harming the child.”(Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2008)
    • Emotional- “pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s development of sense of self-worth” (Child Welfare Information Gateway,2008)
    • Sexual-“activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or production of pornographic material”( Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2008)

    Child abuse can bee seen as causing immediate harm to the child. While child neglect might not cause immediate harm to the child, overtime child neglect can cause physical and developmental harm. Child Neglect it defined as Child Neglect- “the failure of a parent, guardian or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs.” (Child Welfare Information Gateway,2008) Those needs can be put into four catergories physical,medical,educational, and emotional.


    A teacher needs to know the statistics of child abuse and neglect, once they know the numbers they will see how dyer the situation is and how important it is to know how to respond to child abuse and neglect.The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System is a federal organization that collects data and statistics on child abuse and neglect every year (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). In the year 2006 there was an estimated 3.3 million cases and of those cases over half of them were reported by professionals, such as teachers (U.S Department of Health and Human Services, 2008) in the year 2006 the data showed

    • 905,000 victims of Child abuse or neglect
    • 51.5% were girls an 48.2% were boys
    • 48.8% were white,22.8% were African-America, and 18.4 were Hispanic

    The data that was collected also showed the child neglect was more common than child abuse, in years past the NCANDs reported that child abuse was more prevalent that child neglect. In 2006 the data showed

    • 64.1% were victims of neglect
    • 16% were victims of physical abuse
    • 8.8% were victims of sexual abuse
    • 6.6% were victims of emotional abuse

    Detecting Child Abuse or Neglect

    As teachers we spend and average of 7 hours, 5 days a week with our students. So besides their parents, we are the people that the children spend most of their time with, this allows us to create a relationship of trust with our students.The relationship that is created is one that is so strong that a teacher will do anything to protect their students.So by knowing how to detect abuse and neglect teachers are better prepared to protect their students. We also get to know our students behavioral patterns, and if it changes occur. A dramatic change can in behavior can be a warning sign of child abuse or neglect (Coleman). According to Dr. Coleman, a child psychologist some other warning signs of child abuse or neglect both physical and emotional. They are as follows(Coleman).

    • Bruises, lumps, welts
    • Repeated broken bones
    • Burns
    • Shyness around adults
    • Is often absent
    • Frequent accidents-such as wetting their pants
    • Lack of concentration
    • Poor academic performance
    • High aggression
    • Early arrival to school and reluctance to leave
    • Unsociable

    When it comes to detecting the possibility of child neglect the warning signs can be a lot more apparent and can be easily seen by the outer appearance of the child. Some of the things to look for if a teacher suspects a child is being neglected are as follows (Duncan, 2001)

    • Child appears to always be hungry
    • Unorganized train of thought
    • Child appears to suffer from medical and dental neglect
    • Child comes to class in clothes that appear dirty and worn

    Reporting Suspicions of Child Abuse or Neglect

    When teachers suspect child abuse or neglect they sometimes hesitate to report it, this may be because of a fear that the parents of the child may retaliate against the child, or they feel that even if it is reported nothing will be done. As teachers those we are mandated to report any suspicions of child abuse or neglect. This is stated in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act(CAPTA) if a teacher fails to report any suspicions they can face disciplinary action up to and including termination and criminal liabilities(Smith, 2007). When a teacher suspects that a child is being abused in most school the teacher will file a report for the principal once the report is filled it is normally given to the guidance counselor who will be the one to contact the local depart of Child Protective Services(CPS)(Citizens Information). The website also states that if a child confides in a child that the teacher should record the conversations. The teacher also needs to have the child’s basic information such as; name , address, phone number, details about the suspected abuse, and information about the potential perpetrator(Duncan, 2001). The CPS will determine in the information is substantial enough for an investigation. The CPS will normally send the mandated reporter a letter, but a family’s right to privacy is still of importance. So a mandated reporter might know that the CPS investigated but may not know the findings or results of the investigation (Duncan, 2001).


    So in conclusion teachers have not only a legal responsibility but an ethical responsibility to protect their students. Teachers should pay attention to students’ behavior and create strong relationships with their students. If this happens, I feel that we will see a huge drop in numbers of children dying from child abuse and neglect. Every child deserves a happy and safe childhood and as educators we can help ensure that they are happy and healthy.


    Child Welfare Information Gateway.(2008).What is child abuse and neglect?.Retrieved February 7, 2009, From Child Welfare Inofrmation Gateway. Web site:

    Children’s Bureau.(2008).NCANDS Survey Instrument.Retri ved February 7, 2009, from Department of Health and Human Services. Web site:

    Coleman, M. What should you do when you suspect child abuse. Retrived February 7, 2009, from Web site:

    Duncan,N. When should teachers report abuse? Retrived February 7, 2009,from Children’s Voice Article.Web site:

    Smith,S.(2007). Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. Retrived February 7, 2009, from Smith Law firm. Web site:

    (2008).Reporting child abuse are primary and post primary leve. Retrived February 7, 2009, from Citizens Information.Web site:

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