Baltimore & Towson Lawyer Discusses Washington County's New Child Abuse Reporting Policy
According to a recent Washington Post article, Washington County's Board of Education recently adopted new child abuse reporting policies, diversity initiatives and superintendent evaluations. More specifically, in a unanimous vote, the school system noted that all employees will be expected and required to report all incidents of suspected neglect and/or abuse as soon as possible -- but only if it can be done without risking the safety of the child.
What Constitutes Child Neglect and Abuse?
Neglect, from a legal standpoint, is a parent's (or other individual who has responsibility for the child) failure to provide appropriate attention and/or care to a child, which includes leaving him or her unattended such that the child's "health or welfare is harmed or placed at substantial risk of harm;" or he or she faces mental injury or substantial risk of mental injury.
Under Maryland law, abuse is defined as "the physical or mental injury of a child by any parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by any household or family member, under circumstances that indicate that the child's health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed; or sexual abuse of a child, whether physical injuries are sustained or not. Sexual abuse is defined as any act that involves sexual molestation or exploitation of a child by a parent or the other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by any household or family member."
How to Differentiate Between Child Abuse and Physical Discipline
One of the more difficult questions teachers and other school employees often have relates to differentiating between abuse and discipline. To be sure, some cultures and families routinely use physical discipline to manage their child's behavior. However, in a general sense, physical discipline should be reported as abuse if the discipline has left behind injuries that either caused harm to the child or placed him or her at substantial risk of harm from a health and welfare standpoint.
What Are Some of the Signs of Child Abuse?
There are several indicators, some of which are physical, while others are sexual indicators or indications of neglect. Physically, some of the indicators include unexplained bruising or a pattern of bruises on a child; burns and cuts on the child's body, rope burns and/or marks, broken/fractured bones, puncture wounds and abrasions and chipped teeth.
Some of the sexual indicators include reported pain and/or injuries to the child's genital area, pain or difficulty when walking, sexually-suggestive behavior, extreme and/or unusual changes in the child's emotions and/or behavior and pregnancy prior to reaching 12 years of age.
Signs of neglect typically include untreated medical issues, apparent malnourishment, a dirty or unkempt appearance, insufficient clothing for the weather and an unattended/unsupervised child.
School system employees have been asked to take an online training course by mid-October, and the Board notes that most local cases of suspected child abuse or neglect are reported through the school system.
If you have concerns or questions about a potential child abuse issue, or if someone in your family has experienced any form of domestic violence, do not hesitate to contact Towson domestic violence attorney Amar Weisman at the Law Offices of Amar Weisman, LLC to discuss your legal options.
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Call The Law Offices of Amar S. Weisman at (410) 321-4994 to schedule a Free Consultation. The Purpose of the consultation is to determine whether you want to retain this law firm as your Baltimore & Towson Family Lawyer. If you do wish to proceed, then you must pay a retainer. See Our Policy on Fees and Costs. The family firm is located next to The Circuit Court for Baltimore County, at 1018 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson, MD 21204.
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