How to Ensure Your Students Have a Safe School Year

August 22, 2019

By Jill Whitmyer

If you are a teacher, volunteer, or work with children, it is imperative that you are aware of legal and regulatory changes. Whether at home or school, protecting students from harm is a responsibility borne by adults, and especially if you are considered a mandated reporter. A list of individuals identified as mandated reporters is available here if you aren’t sure if you qualify as one.
From handling problems and setting rules to opening channels of communication and being aware of legal requirements, parents and school district employees can help ensure a safe school year.
As you might know, the Child Protective Services Law was overhauled between 2014 and 2015, and a number of beneficial updates were ushered in as a result. The changes predominantly impact mandated reporters in relation to their responsibilities and clearances. Understanding and incorporating the required updates is necessary for institutions and is a key step in protecting our youth. The following is an overview of a few important changes.
School districts should ensure policies are up-to-date and reflect proper mandated reporter regulations as defined by law.
Two important changes to flag include:
1) The elimination of “reporting up the chain of command.” Individual mandated reporters are now required to directly report all suspected abuse. If they fail to report directly and tell their supervisor instead, they may face charges.
2) The new law requires mandated reporters to report abuse even in certain “off the clock” situations when suspected abuse has been disclosed to them.
Districts should also verify that all staff and volunteers who work with children have child abuse and criminal background clearances with tracking processes in place. School employees must renew their clearances every 5 years or 60 months.
The required clearances and associated costs include:
1) PA State Police clearance ($22; free for volunteers)
2) Child Abuse clearance through the PA Department of Human Services ($13; free for volunteers)
3) Fingerprint based federal criminal history submitted through the Pennsylvania State Police or its authorized agent, the FBI ($23.85)
Additionally, administrators should take time to assess what training is necessary for staff and volunteers and also ensure there are tracking processes in place. School employees must be trained every 5 years under Act 126. PFSA provides free training on how to recognize and report child abuse, with scenarios relevant to their line of work. In person training allows for open discussion, questions and answers, and clarification. Schedule a free onsite training today.
It is important to understand the laws regarding clearances, in order to keep every school safe. It is equally important for parents, grandparents, and other caretakers to know there are resources available to help guide children as they grow and face difficult situations. Together, a support system at home and at school can help protect children and establish a healthy learning environment. To find out more, visit www.pa-fsa.org

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