A bill (Assembly Bill 489) to dramatically expand child abuse and neglect reporting requirements for those who work with and around school children has been scheduled for a public hearing on Tuesday, December 8. At 10:00 a.m. before the Assembly Family Law Committee.
Current law requires all school employees to report suspected child abuse or neglect. This bill would apply that requirement to school volunteers and contractors who work directly with children for at least 40 hours in a school year.
The WASB has strong concerns that Assembly Bill 489 could impose costly requirements on school districts without directly contributing to ensuring the safety of children and that it could have a serious “chilling” effect on the willingness of people to volunteer in schools.
Further, because the bill provides no funding, these new requirements would become unfunded mandates on schools.
The change in reporting requirements would require schools to keep track of how many hours volunteers and contractors spend in direct contact with children each school year or risk liability. Schools would also have to track these hours to know who must receive required training as the bill would also require schools to train all volunteers and contractors who work directly with children at least 40 hours in a school year. Training would include not only DPI-provided instruction in identifying children who have been abused or neglected but instruction on identifying children who are victims of human trafficking.
Because mandated reporters are subject to criminal penalties and civil liability if they fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect, the WASB is concerned this bill, if enacted, could deter parents and other community members from volunteering in schools.
The bill would also force schools to rewrite existing contracts with food service and bus transportation providers to require that training for contracted workers be a condition of receiving the contract. The bill would also likely require all existing and new school employees to receive additional training in identifying children who are victims of human trafficking.
When this bill was originally circulated for co-signers, it was described as a measure to combat Human Trafficking. The memo requesting co-signers stated:
“In effort to reduce duplicity (sic) with legislation offered by Sen. Cowles and the DOJ, I am re-introducing a stream-lined version of my Human Trafficking bill. The bill closes the loop-hole regarding mandating reporting.
“Human trafficking is a growing concern not only across the country but particularly here in the state of Wisconsin. Currently pimps utilize Wisconsin’s healthcare services with impunity as the laws pertaining to mandated reporting are unclear with respect to minors. In 2011 a leg council study looked into recodification of the child abuse and neglect reporting laws. This bill reflects many of the changes recommended by that study.
- The bill directs DPI to include identifying children who are victims of Human Trafficking in the training materials given to mandated reporters. The bill also expands the mandated reporting law to certain volunteers at schools.
- The bill removes the mandated reporting exception for health care providers in certain instances.”