School officials have a duty to report suspected child abuse to the appropriate government agency
J.H. v. County of Nassau, 20 Misc 3d 1142(A)
J.H. v. County of Nassau the court considered the question of the fallout if school personnel file a report of alleged child abuse that is ultimately found to be incorrect. Could the employee be held liable for defamation if the report proved to be “unfounded?”
Citing Rine v. Chase, 309 AD2d 796, the court ruled that as the school was required to report the alleged abuse of maltreatment of a child to the appropriate child protective agency, neither the school nor the individual filing the report were liable notwithstanding the fact that ultimately the allegation was found to be “unfounded” as filing such reports were mandated by law
Not only do school personnel enjoy a qualified immunity in connection with reporting suspected child abuse in good faith, their failure to do so may result in disciplinary action.
In Hoey v PERB, App. Div., 284 A.D.2d 633, teacher aides were given specific instructions to report any concerns about classroom matters -- they were to immediately bring them to the attention of the supervisor of special education or the school principal.
According to the decision, the aides becoming aware that a teacher had engaged in bizarre and inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature with one of the students.
About a month later they reported the teacher's suspected conduct to one of their union representatives rather than school administrators. Two days later the union representative told school administrators of the aides' report.
A number of other aides were terminated after being found guilty of insubordination for failing to follow a supervisor's directive and jeopardizing the safety of a child under their supervision by failing to timely report suspected child abuse.