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Abused Responsibility

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Most of the teachers surveyed said they didn't report their suspicions to the proper authorities because they were not sure of their ability to spot abuse, they did not know about the reporting requirement, and they feared legal retribution. Ninety-five percent of the districts studied had a written procedure for reporting suspected abuse, but 43 percent of the teachers from those districts did not know their schools had such a policy.

"Teachers are doing their jobs,'' says NCPCA's Kathleen Casey, who analyzed the report. "But they apparently are not getting the training and support they need.''

According to the committee, teachers should be on the lookout for the following signs of abuse--especially when more than one is apparent--and report them when spotted:

  • Repeated injuries such as bruises, welts, and burns. When questioned, parents may give unlikely explanations or deny that anything is wrong.
  • Neglected appearance. The child seems poorly nourished or inadequately clothed, is repeatedly left alone, or wanders at all hours.
  • Disruptive behavior. The child constantly repeats negative behavior and is very aggressive.
  • Passive, withdrawn behavior. The child is overly shy and friendless.
  • "Super-critical" parents. Parents are harshly critical of their children or remain extremely isolated from the school and community. Attempts at friendly contact may be resented and distrusted.

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