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Wichita school board to clarify abuse-reporting policy

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 8, 2013, at 9:38 a.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, Sep. 10, 2013, at 6:14 a.m.

Revisions to a proposed Wichita school district policy on reporting suspected abuse now directs employees to call 911 immediately if they witness a situation “that may constitute criminal activity.”

The addition was prompted by concerns from some school board members last month that the policy did not expressly direct teachers to call police, but instead required them to call district security.

“People know 911. That’s the emergency number,” board member Joy Eakins said during the meeting Aug. 26. “So to me, when there’s something of imminent harm happening – I don’t care if it’s on school grounds – that’s who you call.”

The revised policy, which comes more than a year after a Wichita kindergarten teacher lost her job after allegedly failing to report suspected abuse quickly enough, is intended to clarify procedures in language that matches current state law.

Kansas law requires teachers, doctors, counselors and other mandatory reporters to inform either local law enforcement or the Kansas Protection Reporting Center if they suspect a child has been abused. The proposed policy includes the toll-free number and Web address for the reporting center.

The revised policy, which the board is expected to vote on during its regular meeting Monday, also requires teachers to notify their building principal promptly of their suspicions, but says the “first duty of an employee is to contact KPRC.”

Board member Barbara Fuller requested that clarification, saying the policy should stress that employees report any suspected abuse first before notifying a principal.

The Wichita district logged 1,982 reports of suspected abuse or neglect last school year, said Loren Pack, coordinator of social work services for the district. The previous year, employees made about 1,600 reports, Pack said; the year before that, about 1,400 reports.

Also on Monday, the school board will hear another report from Aaron Wells, an employee benefits consultant, about establishing an on-site health center for school district employees. Earlier this year, Wells said at least one centrally located health care center could reduce the district’s health care costs.

The clinic would be an option, not a requirement, for employees and their families.

Such clinics would be something between a drug store clinic and a fully staffed medical office. They would offer a range of preventative health services — such as physicals, vaccinations and disease management — as well as acute care for common illnesses and conditions, Wells said.

Board member Lynn Rogers requested a follow-up report to get more details about the costs and benefits of establishing an employee clinic.

The board meets at 6 p.m. Monday in the North High lecture hall, 1437 Rochester.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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