Educators warned of jail time over student sexual abuse
School principals, church leaders, social workers, court officials and even media workers will face the court for failure to report cases of child sexual abuse, under a proposed mandatory reporting protocol expected to go before Cabinet by the end of this year.
When Child Care Board director Joan Crawford made this revelation at the opening of a two-day symposium on student sexual abuse at Hilton Barbados Resort this morning, it created a buzz among the packed room of stakeholders, who included those individuals who would be fined or imprisoned for breaching the protocol.
“There is a duty to report, in spite of the claim of confidentiality or professional privilege . . . . The only exception there is is that lawyer-client privilege; but all others are not considered that way,” she said.
“[The protocol] also states that mandated reporters, which are you [professional caregivers] are required to sign the document . . . . When it comes into effect, all of you are supposed to sign and indicate that you are going to report.”
“There are no ifs or buts. It will be that you . . . are bound to report,” she added.
The list of professionals who would be mandated to report suspected cases of child abuse include: dentists, dental hygienists, hospital personnel, coroners, mental health professional, church leaders, Sunday School teachers, police, social workers, parents and guardians, physicians and their assistants, nurses, child caregivers and probation officers.
Substance abuse counsellors, school administrators, guidance counsellors, the media, court officials, psychiatrists, psychologists, camp counsellors, constituency councils, lawyers and prosecutors will also be mandated to report under the proposed measure.
Crawford told school principals at today’s symposium that the possibility of being jailed for failure to report child sexual abuse cases were among matters she wanted them to seriously consider and provide feedback.
The child care administrator also addressed the issue of immunity for those who report.
Crawford said there would be protection for those who were looking out for the best interest of children in reporting their abuse.
“When you talk about reporting, the issue of immunity comes up. Mandated reporters are to be immune, both civilly and criminally, provided the report is made in good faith. Nobody is going to charge you or anything like that, if you believe and report it in good faith,” she gave the assurance.
“However,” Crawford added, “failure to report a suspected case should carry a sanction in the form of a fine, with the alternative of imprisonment. You see, these are things that I want you to consider when we are looking at reporting under the mandatory protocol. How does it impact the Ministry of Education and its agents?”
The Child Care Board director also told the ministry she wanted its officials to give their position on the 63-page draft document containing the provisions of the protocol before it went to Cabinet.