If I witness behavior in a student’s home during distance learning that raises a reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect, am I required to report this?
In general, under G.L. c. 119, § 51A, a mandated reporter must immediately report to the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) when he or she reasonably believes that a child under the age of 18 has been abused or neglected by a caregiver. A caretaker can be a parent, step-parent, guardian, babysitter, or family member in charge of taking care of the child.
Mandated reporters, which includes educators and education support professionals, must report directly to DCF or to their principal (or the person the principal has designated to handle these issues). Mandated reporters are immune from liability if the abuse or neglect is ultimately unsubstantiated if the report was made in good faith but they can face liability for failing to report or deliberately filing a false report.
Mandated reporter obligations continue during this period of distance learning. For instance, mandated reporters who observe caretaker abuse or neglect during videoconferencing are obligated report such abuse or neglect as described above.