EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – The transition to virtual schooling during the pandemic means educators have several new roles and responsibilities.
With new access to their students’ home life, teachers could notice signs of abuse and neglect. As mandatory reporters, they are required to report any suspicions to DHS.
“It becomes a concern if the home environment is as such that there is concern that the child is able to be safe because of what it is being observed,” says Tasha Alexander, a Social Work Manager at the Eau Claire County Department of Human Services.
While it does provide some insight into a child’s home life, Alexander says it could make teachers’ jobs as mandatory reporters harder in other ways.
“Observations are one thing. If a child is participating in virtual learning and the person who is threatening them is in the room that may have an impact on their ability or willingness of feeling safe and that may impact their ability to talk about it,” Alexander says.
Kaying Xiong, Director of Student Services for the Eau Claire Area School District says teachers are trained every year on warning signs to look out for in their students and they are prepared to do that even with learning virtually.
“They are really just asked to take note of anything that’s concerning that they see on the screen with the students, to notice changes in behavior over time and to understand the difference between typical child behavioral problems and abuse and neglect behavioral problems.”
Teachers are trained to report their suspicions and let DHS investigate from there.
“One of the disadvantages we have with not having students in the building is you really just can’t look at the overall child and decide a lot of time it is going to have to be that conversation and relationship building so the child can share if and when something goes wrong,” Xiong says.
Alexander said when the transition to virtual learning first began in April, the department saw a major decrease in reports of abuse and neglect. However she says now, the reports are coming in as expected once again.
Alexander says teachers should make sure students know they have a safe person to talk to even if it has to be through a computer screen.
Resources for reporting child abuse and neglect can be found here.
Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.