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Colorado Criminal Law – Understanding Colorado School Teacher and Professional Reporting Child Abuse- Child Protection Requirements

Colorado School Teachers as Mandated Reporters by Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer – H. Michael Steinberg

Colorado is the host of the Henry C. Kempe National Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse.  It has led the national effort to focus new criminal laws and reporting requirements aimed at preventing child abuse

Along with the increased focus and heightened standards pertaining to child abuse prevention and victim protection, came an increase in the number of professions required to report suspected child abuse.

While in 1967 all fifty-two child abuse reporting statutes49 listed physicians and other medical personnel, fourteen also mandated teachers or school personnel to report.  By 1974 that number had increased to twenty-four and in 1977, forty-nine state statutes named school teachers as mandatory reporters of child abuse.

While one might wonders why states choose to place a duty on school teachers – individuals who likely have no medical, psychological, or welfare training – to report child abuse upon a reasonable belief that it is occurring, it is the law in almost every state.

Teachers are mandated reporters because they have daily interaction with children who are required by law to attend school. Teachers can actually be a much greater asset to prevent and protect against further abuse than many other professionals:

Unlike [the child’s] relationship with other professionals, a child’s relationship with his teacher is not subject to the whim of his parents. Children are required by law to attend school, but are generally not required to visit medical, dental, psychological, or other professional facilities. The opportunity for discovery of abuse is thus greatly enhanced in the school setting, and the teacher is the most likely person to discover it

Here is a Summary of the Mandatory Reporting Law in Colorado

School Employees As Mandated Reporters (C.R.S.. 19-3-304)*

The Colorado Child Protection Act of 1987 states that certain persons, among them any school official or employee who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been abused or neglected, are required to make an immediate oral report (or cause a report to be made) to the county department of human services in which the child resides, or to local law enforcement (in instances of non-inter familial abuse).

The oral report must be followed promptly by a written report. It is not the responsibility of school personnel to make a determination if abuse or neglect has occurred.  Human services or local law enforcement will make that decision.

The legal responsibility of the individual school official or employee who suspects abuse or neglect is not satisfied by reporting that suspicion to other school personnel (unless the individual verifies that a report has actually been made). If the school employee is uncertain as to whether reasonable cause exists, the employee should nevertheless make a report to human services or law enforcement and allow those agencies to determine whether an investigation is warranted.

Even if suspected abuse involves a case which is very old, and even if the suspected perpetrator is also a minor, a report must be made.

Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect (C.R.S. 19-1-103)

For purposes of reporting, child abuse or neglect is defined as an act or omission in one of the following categories that threatens the health or welfare of a child.

Physical Abuse:

Any case in which a child exhibits evidence of skin bruising, bleeding, malnutrition, failure to thrive, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma, soft tissue swelling or death, and either

(a) such condition or death is not justifiably explained;

(b) the history given concerning such condition or death is at variance with the degree or type of such condition or death;

or (c) circumstances indicate that such condition or death may not be the product of an accidental occurrence.

Sexual Abuse:

Any case in which a child is subjected to unlawful sexual behavior as that term is defined in Colorado law. (See C.R.S. 16-22-102).

(9) “Unlawful sexual behavior” means any of the following offenses or criminal attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the following offenses:

(a) (I) Sexual assault, in violation of section 18-3-402, C.R.S.; or

(II) Sexual assault in the first degree, in violation of section 18-3-402, C.R.S., as it existed prior to July 1, 2000;

(b) Sexual assault in the second degree, in violation of section 18-3-403, C.R.S., as it existed prior to July 1, 2000;

(c) (I) Unlawful sexual contact, in violation of section 18-3-404, C.R.S.; or

(II) Sexual assault in the third degree, in violation of section 18-3-404, C.R.S., as it existed prior to July 1, 2000;

(d) Sexual assault on a child, in violation of section 18-3-405, C.R.S.;

(e) Sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, in violation of section 18-3-405.3, C.R.S.;

(f) Sexual assault on a client by a psychotherapist, in violation of section 18-3-405.5, C.R.S.;

(g) Enticement of a child, in violation of section 18-3-305, C.R.S.;

(h) Incest, in violation of section 18-6-301, C.R.S.;

(i) Aggravated incest, in violation of section 18-6-302, C.R.S.;

(j) Trafficking in children, in violation of section 18-3-502, C.R.S.;

(k) Sexual exploitation of children, in violation of section 18-6-403, C.R.S.;

(l) Procurement of a child for sexual exploitation, in violation of section 18-6-404, C.R.S.;

(m) Indecent exposure, in violation of section 18-7-302, C.R.S.;

(n) Soliciting for child prostitution, in violation of section 18-7-402, C.R.S.;

(o) Pandering of a child, in violation of section 18-7-403, C.R.S.;

(p) Procurement of a child, in violation of section 18-7-403.5, C.R.S.;

(q) Keeping a place of child prostitution, in violation of section 18-7-404, C.R.S.;

(r) Pimping of a child, in violation of section 18-7-405, C.R.S.;

(s) Inducement of child prostitution, in violation of section 18-7-405.5, C.R.S.;

(t) Patronizing a prostituted child, in violation of section 18-7-406, C.R.S.;

(u) Engaging in sexual conduct in a correctional institution, in violation of section 18-7-701, C.R.S.;

(v) Wholesale promotion of obscenity to a minor, in violation of section 18-7-102 (1.5), C.R.S.;

(w) Promotion of obscenity to a minor, in violation of section 18-7-102 (2.5), C.R.S.;

(x) Class 4 felony internet luring of a child, in violation of section 18-3-306 (3), C.R.S.;

(y) Internet sexual exploitation of a child, in violation of section 18-3-405.4, C.R.S.;

(z) Public indecency, committed in violation of section 18-7-301 (2) (b), C.R.S., if a second offense is committed within five years of the previous offense or a third or subsequent offense is committed;

(aa) Invasion of privacy for sexual gratification, in violation of section 18-3-405.6, C.R.S.; or

(bb) Second degree kidnapping, if committed in violation of section 18-3-302 (3) (a), C.R.S.

 *19-3-304. Persons required to report child abuse or neglect.

(1) (a) Except as otherwise provided by section 19-3-307, sections 25-1-122 (4) (d) and 25-4-1404 (1) (d), C.R.S., and paragraph (b) of this subsection (1), any person specified in subsection (2) of this section who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect shall immediately upon receiving such information report or cause a report to be made of such fact to the county department or local law enforcement agency.
 
(b) The reporting requirement described in paragraph (a) of this subsection (1) shall not apply if the person who is otherwise required to report does not:

(I) Learn of the suspected abuse or neglect until after the alleged victim of the suspected abuse or neglect is eighteen years of age or older; and
 
(II) Have reasonable cause to know or suspect that the perpetrator of the suspected abuse or neglect:
 
(A) Has subjected any other child currently under eighteen years of age to abuse or neglect or to circumstances or conditions that would likely result in abuse or neglect; or
 
(B) Is currently in a position of trust, as defined in section 18-3-401 (3.5), C.R.S., with regard to any child currently under eighteen years of age.
 
(2) Persons required to report such abuse or neglect or circumstances or conditions include any:
 
(a) Physician or surgeon, including a physician in training;
 
(b) Child health associate;
 
(c) Medical examiner or coroner;
 
(d) Dentist;
 
(e) Osteopath;
 
(f) Optometrist;
 
(g) Chiropractor;
 
(h) Podiatrist;
 
(i) Registered nurse or licensed practical nurse;
 
(j) Hospital personnel engaged in the admission, care, or treatment of patients;
 
(k) Christian science practitioner;
 
(l) Public or private school official or employee;
 
(m) Social worker or worker in any facility or agency that is licensed or certified pursuant to part 1 of article 6 of title 26, C.R.S.;
 
(n) Mental health professional;
 
(o) Dental hygienist;
 
(p) Psychologist;
 
(q) Physical therapist;
 
(r) Veterinarian;
 
(s) Peace officer as described in section 16-2.5-101, C.R.S.;
 
(t) Pharmacist;
 
(u) Commercial film and photographic print processor as provided in subsection (2.5) of this section;
 
(v) Firefighter as defined in section 18-3-201 (1), C.R.S.;
 
(w) Victim’s advocate, as defined in section 13-90-107 (1) (k) (II), C.R.S.;
 
(x) Licensed professional counselors;
 
(y) Licensed marriage and family therapists;
 
(z) Registered psychotherapists;
 
(a) (I) Clergy member.

   (II) The provisions of this paragraph (aa) shall not apply to a person who acquires reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect during a communication about which the person may not be examined as a witness pursuant to section 13-90-107 (1) (c), C.R.S., unless the person also acquires such reasonable cause from a source other than such a communication.
 
(III) For purposes of this paragraph (aa), unless the context otherwise requires, “clergy member” means a priest, rabbi, duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church, member of a religious order, or recognized leader of any religious body.
 
(bb) Registered dietitian who holds a certificate through the commission on dietetic registration and who is otherwise prohibited by 7 CFR 246.26 from making a report absent a state law requiring the release of this information;
 
(cc) Worker in the state department of human services;
 
(dd) Juvenile parole and probation officers;
 
(ee) Child and family investigators, as described in section 14-10-116.5, C.R.S.;
 
(ff) Officers and agents of the state bureau of animal protection, and animal control officers;
 
(gg) The child protection ombudsman as created in article 3.3 of this title;
 
(hh) Educator providing services through a federal special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children, as provided for in 42 U.S.C. sec. 1786.

Editor’s note: Paragraph (hh) is effective January 1, 2012.
  
(2.5) Any commercial film and photographic print processor who has knowledge of or observes, within the scope of his or her professional capacity or employment, any film, photograph, video tape, negative, or slide depicting a child engaged in an act of sexual conduct shall report such fact to a local law enforcement agency immediately or as soon as practically possible by telephone and shall prepare and send a written report of it with a copy of the film, photograph, video tape, negative, or slide attached within thirty-six hours of receiving the information concerning the incident.
 
(3) In addition to those persons specifically required by this section to report known or suspected child abuse or neglect and circumstances or conditions which might reasonably result in abuse or neglect, any other person may report known or suspected child abuse or neglect and circumstances or conditions which might reasonably result in child abuse or neglect to the local law enforcement agency or the county department.
 
(3.5) No person, including a person specified in subsection (1) of this section, shall knowingly make a false report of abuse or neglect to a county department or local law enforcement agency.
 
(4) Any person who willfully violates the provisions of subsection (1) of this section or who violates the provisions of subsection (3.5) of this section:
 
(a) Commits a class 3 misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided in section 18-1.3-501, C.R.S.;
 
(b) Shall be liable for damages proximately caused thereby.

 


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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