February 12, 2014
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces Support for AB 1432
SACRAMENTO—California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today his support for legislation authored by Assembly Member Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) that would require formal training for all school employees on the identification and reporting of suspected child abuse.
School employees are one of the professional groups in California that are required to report any suspected child abuse to the proper authorities. But their employers have never been legally required to train them in how to identify signs of abuse or in how to report it. That would change under Assembly Bill 1432.
"Across California, educators and school communities feel a genuine responsibility toward the children they serve—for their education and their safety and wellbeing," Torlakson wrote in support of the bill. "They don't believe their job begins when the bell rings and ends at the schoolyard gate, and they know that we can't expect a fearful child to learn.
"AB 1432 begins to ensure they get the tools they need to identify and report abuse, because nothing is more important than the safety of our children," he added.
Torlakson has supported a number of previous measures to improve school safety, including laws to help prevent sexual assault and other crimes against children. Legislation he successfully sponsored last year expanded the use of background checks for school employees.
The full text of Torlakson's letter follows.
February 10, 2014
The Honorable Mike Gatto
State Capitol, Room 2114
Sacramento, CA 95814
Assembly Bill 1432 (Gatto)
Dear Assembly Member Gatto:
As a teacher, parent and grandparent, and as California's State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I am writing in strong support of Assembly Bill 1432.
Nothing is more important than the safety of our children at school. California has had child abuse reporting laws on the books since 1963—for more than five decades. And yet, even as changing state laws have expanded the number and nature of "mandatory reporters," never have they required any accompanying training in these duties. This does a disservice to both school employees and to the children these laws are meant to protect.
Our efforts to make our schools safer and help prevent crimes against children must also include giving educators and others who work with children the very best training and guidance available.
According to a recent media report, fewer than half of 94 school districts surveyed actually train employees on the identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect. School districts that do not provide training are required—under existing law—to notify the California Department of Education (CDE) of their reasons for doing so. Despite our best efforts to make districts aware of these responsibilities, we have received no such notifications. Clearly, current requirements fall short.
That is why I am pleased to see AB 1432 take a step forward by requiring that all school employees receive training at the beginning of every school year in their legal obligation to report child abuse and neglect. But it also ensures that the local educational agencies providing this training have assistance, by requiring the CDE, in consultation with the Office of Child Abuse Prevention in the California Department of Social Services, to provide information and guidelines on mandatory reporter training. Importantly, this training would also now be required to include the fact that failure to report constitutes a misdemeanor punishable with jail time and a fine.
Across California, educators and school communities feel a genuine responsibility toward the children they serve—for their education and their safety and wellbeing. They do not believe their job begins when the bell rings and ends at the schoolyard gate, and they know that we cannot expect a fearful child to learn.
AB 1432 begins to ensure they are given the tools they need to identify and report abuse, and I look forward to working with you on this important measure. Please do not hesitate to contact me, or have your staff contact the Government Affairs Division at 916-319-0821.
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Tom Torlakson —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100