Stop Private Schools" Ability to "Pass the Trash" and Ignore Staff Sex Abuse Suspicions
January 26, 2018
New York private school administrators should follow the same reporting rules as public school administrators when it comes to reports of abuse. Shockingly, they are not mandated, under current state law, to alert authorities to reports of child abuse in the educational setting, nor to report a worker's resignation after such accusations.
State legislators are poised to vote on a bill that would align private school reporting rules with what's expected of public school leaders. Passage of this legislation should have happened years ago.
Public schools have been mandated since 2000 to report suspicions of sex abuse by any staff, faculty or volunteer in the school environment, whether in a classroom, on a field trip or bus, or during extra-curricular activities. But private school administrators don't fall under such regulations. It was a mistake then, and it's a mistake now.
The legislation (A5371/S4342) has gained wide support.The New York State Catholic Conference has said it supports the legislation, which aligns with changes the American bishops made years ago in the wake of abuse reports. Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization for Orthodox Jewry, has remained publicly mum on the bill.
This is a separate issue from the Child Victims Act, which would extend the statute of limitations for both civil and criminal charges in reporting child sex abuse. That bill has been sentenced to death-by-committee year after year in the Senate; advocates report that Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan continues to ignore their requests to meet and discuss the legislation. It's time for compassion and justice to prevail. The legislation should finally be passed as part of the upcoming state budget process, at the very latest.
|Kate Christensenís memoir contains allegations of sexual abuse by the authorís teacher at the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge in 1978. (Photo: Ricky Flores/The Journal News)|
When it comes to reporting, there's no excuse to delay for one more minute tackling a loophole that leaves kids vulnerable. Abuse scandals from years ago keep turning up in prestigious prep schools, parochial schools and every other form of private school. Exclusive Horace Mann was rocked by reports of a series of serial abusers in their employ decades ago; Green Meadow Waldorf in Chestnut Ridge uncovered its own past problems when it launched a look-back investigation after a former student told of her abuse by a teacher in the 1970s; the Buffalo-area Nichols School, amid reports of past scandals, released a report this month that found 10 teachers over four decades had engaged students in improper relationships. Who thinks this will not happen again?
Private school leaders can still get away with a "pass the trash" stance. A suspected abuser leaves the school and goes to another, and not a word is whispered about the complaints. How can the State of New York allow such tragedies to continue?
|Dozens of former students say they were molested at Horace Mann School in the Bronx during the 1970s and '80s. (Photo: Mark Lennihan, AP)|
The school reporting system is separate from what we all know as "mandatory reporter" status for teachers and others, who must alert Child Protective Services if they suspect a parent or guardian is hurting a child in any way. This legislation, rather, would: Mandate that private-school school leaders alert law enforcement if a person tied to the school community is suspected of abuse; forbid making a deal with a teacher or worker to keep quiet if the suspected abuser quits; and protect administrators from legal ramifications if a report was made in good faith, but later disproven.
Hundreds of thousands of children attend private schools of all sorts and sizes in our state. Each one deserves to be protected from abusers, no matter where they lurk. Each one deserves to be advocated for, in every setting.