Many allegations of child abuse and neglect begin with an accusation made by a teacher or another school employee. If you were accused of child abuse or neglect in Texas, it is important to understand the obligations teachers and educators have during these investigations.
After an allegation of child abuse in Texas, it is important to seek out the services of a criminal defense attorney immediately after you learn of the accusation. An experienced criminal defense attorney can protect you and your family against false or exaggerated allegations.
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Our attorneys are familiar with the tactics used by Texas Department of Family and Protective Services and the policies of the local public schools during these investigations.
The criminal defense attorneys at Dunham & Jones, Attorneys at Law represent parents charged with child abuse and neglect throughout Texas.
Mandatory Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Requirements for Teachers
The mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting requirements in Texas are explained in:
- Texas Family Code (TFC) Chapter 261;
- Texas Administration Code (TAC) §61.1051; and
- Texas Education Code (TEC) §38.004 and §38.0041.
These rules and regulations also focus on professional development provisions for schools including policy development and required child abuse anti-victimization programs.
In the State of Texas, the public schools play an important role in reporting suspected abuse and neglect of children in Texas. In fact, school employees represent the largest professional resource for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect in Texas.
In 2012, for example, out of 199,474 completed investigations of suspected child abuse and neglect conducted by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), approximately 17.6% of those investigations were reported by school employees.
Teachers are taught to make the report even when they have serious reservations about the truth of the allegation. Although these rules are intended to increase awareness about child abuse and neglect, including mandatory reporting laws, the rules and regulations sometimes result in false accusations caused by poorly drafted reporting policies in the public school system.
Many of these reporting policies require teachers and school employees to call 911, the local police department, and the Texas Abuse Hotline, 1.800.252.5400.
School District Policies on Reporting Abuse and Neglect in Texas
In accordance with TFC §261, TEC §38.004, §38.0041 and TAC §61.1051, school boards are required to adopt policies for reporting child abuse and neglect. These policies must be in compliance with the rules and regulations under Texas law and are reviewed at least once a year. The policies are distributed to school personnel when school starts each year. The policies are also explained at staff development programs throughout the year.
According to Texas law, all school employees (as well as their agents and contractors) are required to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
TFC §261.101 requires any person having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect by any person shall immediately make a report. The rules generally require that the report must be made within 48 hours of any suspicion of abuse or neglect by any person who observed the suspected abuse and neglect.
School employees must often report suspected child abuse or neglect directly to DFPS or law enforcement either with or without the help of an administrator. It is also important to recognize that school districts are required to cooperate with law enforcement in child abuse investigations, including investigations involving Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
TAC §61.1051 requires that local policies expressly notify school employees of the serious penalties that can result if they fail to submit a required report of child abuse or neglect.
Both local school districts and open-enrollment charter schools must adopt and implement a policy addressing sexual abuse and other maltreatment of children in accordance with TEC §38.0041.
The school’s policy for reporting sexual abuse and other forms of child maltreatment is included in the school district’s improvement plan and in any informational handbook provided to students and parents. The policies address the following:
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- Teachers are trained on how to recognize early warning signs that a child may be a victim of sexual abuse or other maltreatment’
Ways to help the child obtain assistance and intervention; and
- Counseling options for students affected by sexual abuse or other forms of maltreatment.
Provide Training to Teachers on Reporting Abuse
The training and documentation requirements are set forth in TEC §38.004, TAC §61.1051, and TEC §38.0041. The schools must keep careful records of which employees participate and complete the required training.
For example, TEC §38.0041, sets forth training requirements for school districts and open-enrollment charters regarding:
- child abuse and neglect;
- sexual abuse; and
- other maltreatment of children.
Implement Anti-Victimization Programs
TEC §38.004(b) requires that each school district provide child abuse anti-victimization programs in secondary schools and elementary schools. These programs expect teachers to play a role in preventing:
- sexual abuse;
- child neglect;
- child abuse,
- victimization; and
- other forms of maltreatment.
Overview of Child Abuse Prevention in Texas Schools – Visit the Texas Education Agency website to find a child abuse prevention overview for mandated reporters including teachers, educators, and other school employees. Those resources including the Texas Association of School Boards (TASP) Policy Service Model Student Handbook and reporting policies for abuse, discrimination, and bullying.
Texas DFPS Internet Reporting Website – Visit the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Internet Reporting Website to learn more about Texas Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Reporting System on the website for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Find a flyer about reporting abuse and frequently asked questions.
Finding an Attorney for Child Abuse and Neglect in Texas
If your child’s school has reported suspected child abuse or neglect, it is important to seek out the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you as soon as possible. Our attorneys are familiar with the tactics used by Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
Read more about the ways our attorneys defend clients accused of child abuse.
The Texas criminal defense attorneys at Dunham & Jones, represent clients who have been charged with child abuse crimes. We represent clients throughout the state of Texas
Contact our offices at 800-499-8455 to schedule an initial consultation, either in the office or on the phone. We can begin your defense today.