Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Commissioner of Education lacks jurisdiction to review if reports of alleged child abuse by school administrators are made consistent with the Social Services Law


Commissioner of Education lacks jurisdiction to review if reports of alleged child abuse by school administrators are made consistent with the Social Services Law
Appeal of M.I.B., on behalf of his son, from actions of the Board of Education of the Tuxedo Union Free School District regarding reports of child abuse. Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 16,847

In this appeal M.I.B. challenged Tuxedo Union Free School District’s [Tuxedo] staff members filing, on at least three separate occasions, reports of suspected child abuse involving M.I.B.’s family with New York State Department of Social Services' Child Protective Services [CPS].

M.I.B. said that while he understood a school district had a duty to report any such abuse to CPS, the filing of “incorrect complaints on a regular basis” violated the law and asked the Commissioner, among other things, to investigate and take “appropriate action” against Tuxedo’s employees. 

The Commissioner noted that Tuxedo’s director of student services and human resources had earlier addressed the M.I.B.’s concerns that were set out in a letter to Tuxedo and explained that all professional staff members of the school “are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse to CPS,” and outlined the procedures followed in making such reports.  The director also stated, among other things, that it had been found that proper procedures had been followed regarding M.I.B.’s complaints. 

M.I.B. contended that Tuxedo was “harassing” his family by “repeatedly filing incorrect reports of [c]hild abuse” to CPS and alleged that between in an eight month period had filed three reports, all of which were dismissed by CPS as unfounded. 

After addressing two procedural matters the Commissioner ruled that the appeal must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. 

The Commissioner explained that the provisions of Article 6 of Title 6 of the Social Services Law (§§411-428) set forth the scheme for mandatory reporting by school officials of suspected cases of child abuse or maltreatment. 

In this instance, said the Commissioner, CPS investigated the reports about which M.I.B. complained and found them to be unfounded.  Therefore, the relief M.I.B. requests would be based on a finding that Tuxedo engaged in misconduct by making the reports to CPS.  

However, the Commissioner said that she has “no authority to review whether such reports are appropriately made in accordance with the Social Services Law” Further, said the Commissioner, she does not have jurisdiction to request that school officials stop filing reports of suspected abuse to CPS or that school officials contact the parents prior to doing so, opining that to do so “would undermine the legislative purpose in requiring that such reports be made by school officials.”

Thus, said the Commissioner, M.I.B.’s appeal must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. 

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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