When in Doubt, Protect the Child
Two members of the Dove’s Nest Speaker’s Bureau attended the “Child-on-Child Abuse: Recognizing, Reporting, Preventing” conference, sponsored by the law office Gibbel Kraybill & Hess, on October 5, 2017, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Jan Slabaugh shares her experiences here.
Jeff Worley and J. Dwight Yoder, lawyers from Gibbel Kraybill & Hess, presented a workshop on what our legal responsibilities are when it comes to common and statutory laws. The main message was “When in doubt, protect the child.” Whether an incident occurs on-site or off-site, adults are obligated to report abuse to the authorities. Follow your “gut feelings” when things don’t seem right.
Attorney Ann Martin addressed Title IX, which is a 1972 federal statute that prohibits discrimination in federally funded schools on the basis of sex. She provided examples of child-on-child abuse cases dealing with Title IX and emphasized that this law covers elementary schools to universities. Martin mentioned that some excellent interpretive documents are available to anyone who needs help understanding the law:
- January 2001 “Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance: Harassment of Students by School Employees, Other Students, or Third Parties”
- January 25, 2006 “Dear Colleague Letter”
- September 22, 2017 “Dear Colleague Letter”
- September 2017 “Q and A on Campus Sexual Misconduct”
Another workshop focused on how to identify child-on-child abuse and what to do about it. Cathleen Palm of the Center for Children’s Justice said that our society assumes that abuse involves an adult offender and child victim. However, more than a third of those who sexually abuse children are under the age of 18. The statistics she provided were very powerful, and she also shared examples of cases that she has been called to advise on. Palm pointed out that you do not need to decide the legitimacy of a claim, but your duty is to report anytime you have reasonable cause.
In Pennsylvania, everyone who works with children is a mandated reporter. Better training is needed to understand child-on-child situations and related reporting requirements.