Youth Services Law

Showing 8 posts from June 2014.

Mandated Reporter Laws Don't Cover Bad Behavior

Red TelephoneI ran across a complaint at InstaPundit and this linked blog post. As much as I enjoy reading those sites, this time they are not sufficiently skeptical about lawyers' claims. The plaintiff alleges that the school failed to protect him from sexual abuse by another child, specifically by failing to supervise them and by failing to report the other child's earlier behavior. The complaint does set out facts sufficient to sustain the supervision claim, but I do not see any violation of California's mandated reporter law.

Continue reading Mandated Reporter Laws Don't Cover Bad Behavior ›

Evaluating Reluctant Disclosures of Abuse

ChildBlameAuthors of a recent study in Child Maltreatment argue that when children are reluctant to disclose abuse or give inconsistent details, it does not always mean that their disclosures are not credible.  Rather, it may mean that investigators are biased against abuse allegations that do not conform to expected patterns.  The study found that most sexually abused children in the study had disclosed abuse before anyone began investigating, while most physically abused children disclosed only after investigators started asking questions.  Those findings indicated that investigators in sexual abuse cases rely more on disclosures than other evidence, while investigators in physical abuse cases relied more on other types of evidence.  The authors concluded,

In the future, studies attempting to determine children's willingness to disclose abuse should consider how the abuse was suspected in the first place, whether there was corroborative evidence, and how the corroborative evidence may have influenced the interview and the child's report.  Assertions that most abused children disclose abuse when questioned must be tempered in light of the fact that the most reluctant victims may be those least likely to be questioned about abuse and least likely to be substantiated as abused.

Attorneys handling these cases need to be aware of this active controversy about how to judge the credibility of a child's disclosure.  The authors' view currently is in the minority, but studies such as these will gain more adherents.

Teens in Residential Care at Highest Risk of Sexual Abuse

Sexual AbuseThis study, published in Child Maltreatment and based on statistics from 2010, is one more in a long line of studies showing that adolescents in residential care experience more sexual abuse than those in the general population.  One unusual finding in this study is that the children in foster care did not have a statistically higher incidence of abuse.  The difference in the foster care and residential care reports seemed to be that teens in residential care suffered more often from abuse by other teens.

Removing a child from home, then, has its own risks that workers need to weigh.  Administrators of residential placements need to spend a lot of time on supervision policies to reduce the risk of child-on-child sexual abuse.

School Discipline Policy Ignores Science

School disciplineI suspect that what this child has learned is to never tell adults about a mistake.  The school authorities need to read this article about how children actually process information about weapons.  We recognize that education methods differ according to age; why do we insist on one-size-fits-all school discipline policies?

Hat tip:  Instapundit, Daily Caller

Sexualized Behavior More Related to non-Sexual Abuse

There is a common misconception that sexualized behavior by a child is a red flag for sexual abuse. In fact, some studies have shown a higher correlation between sexualized behavior and physical or emotional abuse.  Administrators, counselors, and investigators need to investigate all possibilities whenever they see such behavior.

When "Sexual" Behavior is Not Sexualized Behavior

AdultChildMannequinMost training for mandated reporters teaches that sexualized behavior is a red flag for child abuse.  It is important, however, to realize that some behavior that adults perceive as "sexual" is simply normal, and even sexualized behavior may have benign explanations.  This author writes a moving story of how the school system erroneously perceived his son's motion-related disability as sexualized behavior, never tested its diagnosis, and insisted on suspending him.

Before we bring the full weight of bureaucracy to bear on a six-year-old, we should have a solid basis for a diagnosis.  Mandated reporter training also needs to address these subtleties, and not simply attribute all "sexualized" behavior to possible abuse.  This family never should have had to hire a lawyer to get their son properly diagnosed and educated.

Zero Tolerance Policies May Harm More Children Than They Protect

dont do it!Speaking of imitation and imagination, I ran across this article describing how zero tolerance policies actually can harm children:

The zero-tolerance measures have emerged in a complex adult world navigating terrorism, bullying, reduced budgets and the emphasis on academics. But according to experts in and out of the classroom, the take-home message is children can't use the method they best understand—play—to make sense of the world around them, and to learn the socialization skills that will make them better adults.

The article cites several interesting studies, including one from the University of Maine.  Although it was a case study with a small sample, it contains some very interesting findings, starting with the belief "that children’s pretending to act aggressively is not the same as acting aggressively."

Children need to play all sorts of roles with all sorts of implements (including imaginary weapons), as they work their way toward adulthood.

No Scary Science, Please

Bomber Boy CartoonThe LA Times reports that school officials suspended a teacher for supervising student construction of "imitation weapons." The "imitation weapons" were science fair projects. One, an air-pressure projectile device, is similar to a project that President Obama demonstrated at a White House science fair. The other is a battery-operated coil propulsion system.

Two months later, the school reinstated the teacher, but left open the question of whether he will face disciplinary charges. In the meantime, students lost valuable time preparing for AP exams, and the school fencing team that he coaches missed an important meet.

All because school staff and administrators couldn't tell the difference between danger and "imitation" danger.

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