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California teacher training to prevent child abuse bill advances

Earlier this month, a California bill passed its first legislative hurdle on its way to becoming state law. The California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act was passed by the state Assembly Education Committee unanimously. While this bill is likely being supported by the very best intentions of lawmakers, it is important that parents and teachers of children with disabilities consider the bill’s proposals carefully.

This proposed bill would mandate that all public school teachers complete training related to child abuse. Specifically, the bill would require teachers to properly identify and report instances of child neglect and abuse. These teachers would be trained in accordance with standards drafted by the Department of Education.

Identifying, reporting and protecting children from child abuse and neglect are imperative goals. Therefore, this legislation seems like a straightforward and necessary proposal. However, it is important to understand that neglect and abuse does not manifest in the same ways in every situation.

For example, if a child regularly comes to school with bruising on certain areas of the body, this may be taken as clear evidence of child abuse. However, if the child has a medical condition, what looks like abuse may not be evidence of abuse and neglect at all.

Some children with medical conditions or special needs may appear to the generally trained eye to be victims of abuse. However, it is critical that teachers receive training not just generally but in nuanced ways so that neither students nor loving parents of children with certain conditions are singled out as abusive or victims of abuse when they are actually members of loving and committed families.

Source: California Newswire, “Calif. Bill to Mandate Child-Abuse Training for California Teachers Passes Education Committee,” Christopher Simmons, March 27, 2014

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