Will virtual learning have an impact on child abuse reporting?

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says in 2018, the largest group of reports made on child abuse and neglect came from educators, at nearly 21%. Additionally, 10% came from social service workers.

Now that students in Springfield will only be spending two days a week in the classroom, concerns over child mistreatment are growing.

Many are wondering whether cases may go unnoticed or not reported when a majority of students’ learning will be done in their own homes. 

Rebecca Weber is the Program Supervisor for CASA of Southwest Missouri, or Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. She says teachers reporting child abuse and neglect is absolutely vital to the safety of our kids in the community. 

“When kids have a trusting relationship with at least one adult like a teacher or a neighbor or someone that they feel safe with, that’s when we see them have the ability to disclose something is not going well at home or that they are fearful in a situation,” said Weber.

But just as school will certainly be different this fall for students in the Springfield school district, so will be the approach teachers take when looking for signs of mistreatment.

“We know we’re probably going to see several cases come in due to lack of supervision. Ultimately at this point families are choosing between stable income and employment and leaving their children home alone or finding options for them during the daytime so that can be really stressful for families,” says Weber.

Rhonda Mammen, the Director of Counseling Services for SPS, says teachers have been sent additional reminders and training to spot signs of abuse or neglect ahead of the upcoming school year. Mammen says teachers may need to look for what’s going on in the background of a student’s virtual class, what conversations are going on or what adults are around. In some cases, it may be a concern if the child seems to be home alone, or if they don’t log onto the computer for a couple of days.

The Children’s Division Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline (CA/NHU) is a toll-free telephone line that is answered seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year at 1-800-392-3738.

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