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PA Secretary of Education's Comments on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013 7:41:00 PM

This posting is a letter that I sent to Dennis Owens of abc27 WHTL Harrisburg in response to a a news story and subsequent posting on-line of an piece/article titled.  PA officials differ on when to report child abuse. http://cumberlandlnk.com/news/local/capitalregion/pa-officials-differ-on-when-to-report-child-sex-abuse/articleddd66cf86-3901-11e3-b951-0019bb2963f4.html.

Dear Mr. Owens,

 Thank heavens for Secretary of Welfare Bev Mackereh and her comments “School officials are not trained to be investigators.  So, to have the police involved is the right thing to do.”   She reiterated what is state law and frankly, what is best practice. Those comments were part of a news story that you presented and was posted on line in Pa. officials differ on when to report child abuse published October 19, 2012 AT 6:30 p.m. on www.cumberlandlink.com

Comments by Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education in the same posting regarding her understanding of the need for educational administrators to consider the reputation of the accused as central to when and if a report of child abuse is made is alarming.  It is especially alarming as we remain a state living in the shadow of a painful child sexual abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University and in the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.  The Secretary of Education’s comments conveyed the type of thinking process that brought Penn State and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to their knees from their failure to report child abuse. 

Unfortunately, the views of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Education illustrated not only a lack of knowledge of the mandatory reporting of child abuse laws in the Commonwealth, but also how often and how easy it is to taint testimony, re-traumatized the child victim, and potentially impede justice. 

The Secretary of Education must provide the required leadership to ensure that the laws of this Commonwealth requiring the immediate reporting of child abuse are followed.   But most of all she must provide the leadership that changes a culture that currently permits misguided conduct such as that alleged in Susquehanna Township, Dauphin County, which seems to place more emphasis on the adult’s professional reputation than on the safety or our school children. 

As a result of the leadership of Senator Pat Vance (R) of Cumberland County school employees must now receive three hours of training on mandatory reporting of child abuse every five years.  The Department of Education approves all curriculum that may be used in schools across the Commonwealth to fulfill this requirement.  This is why it is important the Secretary of Education provide informed leadership on the issue of mandatory reporting of child abuse.  Her sphere of influence is wide and she has the opportunity and responsibility to help shape the response of schools at the local level. 

As the former and first Victim Advocate for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania I know that reporting child abuse is a mechanism for intervening in a situation where abuse may already have occurred.   I know that when we as adults fail to make the required report, we not only violate the law, but we leave the responsibility to stop the abuse in the hands of the child.  That is just not right.

 

Mary Achilles,  Owner

Achilles Consulting Services

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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