This fall, for the first time, Wichita teachers will be required to sign a contract acknowledging their duty to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
Shannon Krysl, head of human resources for the Wichita school district, told contract negotiating teams Tuesday that a district policy on reporting suspected abuse will “be added to the annual policy sign-off” for teachers in August.
“It’s one of those critical policies that we want to put in front of everybody each year,” Krysl said.
In the past, teachers were informed of the protocol for reporting abuse via e-mail from district officials but were not required to sign a document. Starting this year, Krysl said, “We just want you to acknowledge that you’re aware of it.”
Kansas law requires teachers, physicians, 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 district’s policy, updated last fall, states: “As soon as suspicion arises, the employee, with only minimal questions to determine the nature of the incident, shall contact KPRC by phone or their web-based system.”
It will be added to several policies or protocols teachers are required to review and sign, including ones on student privacy, computer usage, social media, bullying and handling blood-borne pathogens.
The addition comes more than two years after a Wichita kindergarten teacher lost her job after allegedly failing to report suspected abuse quickly enough.
In April 2012, Donna L. Ford resigned from her job at Cleaveland Elementary School and surrendered her teaching license after allegedly waiting about two weeks to report suspected child sexual abuse. The State Board of Education later voted to reinstate her license, but Ford no longer works in the district.
“The struggle that we all have is we may not think it’s legitimate,” Krysl said.
Teachers don’t have to know all the facts about a particular case before making a call and reporting their suspicions, she added.
“When in doubt, you always report,” she said. “It’s an area where teachers struggle … because they’re afraid they’re making a judgment. And really what I try to say is ‘You’re not making a judgment. All you’re doing is saying, “This information was reported to me, and as a mandated reporter, I have to report it to you.” ’ ”
Randy Mousley, president of United Teachers of Wichita, clarified that teachers aren’t required to notify a principal before reporting suspected abuse or neglect. The district policy directs teachers to notify the building principal or designee “promptly” but states that their first duty is to file a report with child welfare authorities.