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Child Abuse & Neglect

The Acton-Boxborough Regional Schools stresses the importance of protecting children from abuse and neglect as defined under Massachusetts law, found at Mass. G.L. c. 119, Sections 51A, et seq. Massachusetts law defines, among others, public or private school teachers, educational administrators, guidance or family counselors, school attendance officers, nurses and any person paid to care for or work with a child in any public facility or home or program funded or licensed by the Commonwealth, as mandated reporters. The Acton-Boxborough Regional Schools regards all of its employees as mandated reporters and requires them to comply with this policy and the requirements of Mass. G.L. c. 119, Sections 51A, et seq.

Under Massachusetts law, the Department of Children and Families (hereinafter, the “Department” or “DCF”) is the state agency that receives all reports of suspected abuse or neglect of children under the age of 18. The Department’s primary mission is to protect children who have been abused or neglected in a family setting. DCF seeks to ensure that each child has a safe, nurturing, permanent home. The Department also provides a range of preventive services to support and strengthen families with children at risk of abuse or neglect. 

Under Massachusetts law, a mandated reporter who, in his professional capacity, has reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering physical or emotional injury resulting from: (i) abuse inflicted upon him which causes harm or substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare, including sexual abuse; (ii) neglect, including malnutrition; or (iii) physical dependence upon an addictive drug at birth, shall immediately communicate with the Department orally and, within 48 hours, shall file a written report with the Department detailing the suspected abuse or neglect. If a mandated reporter is a member of a school or facility, the mandated reporter may instead notify the person or designated agent in charge of such school or facility who shall become responsible for notifying the Department in the manner required by Mass. G.L. c. 119, Section 51A. The Acton-Boxborough Regional Schools expects all of its employees to make the required reports in accordance with Mass. G.L. c. 119, Section 51A, et seq. It is further expected, pursuant to this Policy, that any report of suspected abuse or neglect made to the Department or made by an employee to the person or designated agent in charge of any school shall be brought to the attention of the Superintendent of Schools within seventy-two (72) hours of the initial reporting to the Department and/or the person or designated agent in charge. This obligation shall apply to both the school person making the report and the person or designated agent in charge to whom the report was made.

Under applicable Massachusetts law, and In accordance with applicable Massachusetts regulations, the following terms shall have the following definitions: 

Abuse: The non-accidental commission of any act by a caretaker upon a child under age 18 which causes, or creates a substantial risk of, physical or emotional injury; or constitutes a sexual offense under the laws of the Commonwealth; or any sexual contact between a caretaker and a child under the care of that individual. This definition is not dependent upon location (i.e., abuse can occur while the child is in an out-of-home or in-home setting).

Neglect: Failure by a caretaker, either deliberately or through negligence or inability, to take those actions necessary to provide a child with minimally adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, supervision, emotional stability and growth, or other essential care; provided, however, that such inability is not due solely to inadequate economic resources or solely to the existence of a handicapping condition. This definition is not dependent upon location (i.e., neglect can occur while the child is in an out-of-home or in-home setting). 

Physical Injury: Death; or fracture of a bone, a subdural hematoma, burns, impairment of any organ, and any other such nontrivial injury; or soft tissue swelling or skin bruising, depending upon such factors as the child’s age, circumstances under which the injury occurred and the number and location of bruises; or addiction to a drug or drugs at birth; or failure to thrive. 

Emotional Injury: An impairment to or disorder of the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child as evidenced by observable and substantial reduction in the child’s ability to function within a normal range of performance and behavior. 

A mandated reporter may, in addition to filing a report under Section 51A, contact local law enforcement authorities or the child advocate about the suspected abuse or neglect. Section 51A(f) provides that any person, even if not a mandated reporter, may file a report under Section 51A if that person has reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering from or has died as a result of abuse or neglect. 

Any person who violates the provisions of Section 51A or who knowingly and willfully files a frivolous report of child abuse or neglect shall be punished in accordance with the provisions of Section 51A. No mandated reporter shall be liable in any civil or criminal action for filing a report under Section 51A or for contacting local law enforcement authorities or the child advocate, if the report or contact was made in good faith, was not frivolous, and the reporter did not cause the abuse or neglect. The Acton-Boxborough Regional Schools will not discharge, discriminate or retaliate against a mandated reporter who, in good faith, files a report under Section 51A, testifies or is about to testify in any proceeding involving child abuse or neglect. However, any employee who fails to make the required report under Section 51A or fails to otherwise comply with this Policy may be the subject of discipline by the employer, up to and including termination from employment. Under appropriate circumstances, such discipline could require notification to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and could result in adverse licensure action by the DESE including possible revocation of licensure.