Mandated Reporting: One Kansas Teacher’s Tragic Misstep

Teachers arguably have one of the most important jobs in the country—they educate our nation’s children. Although teaching can be rewarding, it can also be quite challenging. We rely on teachers to serve as mentors to and carefully watch over and guide students. However, Kansas teachers are more than just educators, they are also “mandated reporters”.  As such, teachers are required by Kansas law to report any suspected abuse of a child. Failing to do so could result in the loss of a teaching license. Recently, one Kansas teacher learned this lesson the hard way—by losing her teaching license and her career, despite the fact that she was a 17 year teaching veteran. This event should serve as a reminder to all teachers that vigilance is necessary to protect a teaching license.

In April 2012, a Wichita elementary school teacher surrendered her teaching license to the Kansas State Board of Education. The teacher was accused of not promptly reporting an incident of suspected child abuse. By a 6-2 vote, the Kansas Board accepted the teacher’s surrender and revoked her teaching license. However, there was quite a bit of public controversy surrounding the Board’s decision.

A local newspaper wrote that the teacher did in fact report her suspicions of abuse to the principal and a social worker at her school, but made the report more than a week later due to a technical problem with her computer. One Board member who voted against revoking the teacher’s license commented that he thought that the Board’s decision was “an absolute atrocity”.  He was not the only one to speak out against the Board’s decision. Several former teachers indicated that the decision to make a report is never clear-cut. Specifically, they pointed out that teachers are often afraid to make a report, fearing that if they are incorrect, things will become worse for the child.

Accordingly, Kansas law provides that if a mandated reporter has a reason to suspect that a child has been or is currently being harmed as the result of physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse, he or she must “promptly” make a report to the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

Although all teachers in the state of Kansas are deemed mandated reporters, each school district may have their own unique policies with regard to reporting.  For instance, in Wichita, the school district’s policy provides that teachers are required to report suspicions of abuse to state officials on the same day the suspicion first arises.

In light of the above, teachers as well as other mandated reporters not only risk their professional license if they do not comply with the aforesaid reporting duties, but could also face criminal penalties. In Kansas, a mandated reporter’s willful and knowing failure to report suspected child abuse is a Class B misdemeanor and could result in fines up to $1,000 or up to 6 months in jail.

If you are a teacher facing an investigation by the Kansas Education Board you need an experienced attorney on your side. I invite you to contact the Sanger Law Office at 785-979-4353 for a free and completely confidential consultation. Trust the seasoned professionals at the Sanger Law Office to protect your teaching license and your livelihood.