Youth Services Law

Showing 329 posts by Deborah A. Ausburn.

Mandated Reporting Protocol

I have received several questions lately from youth organization about what sort of procedure they should have in place for mandated reporting. Each situation is unique, but there are several principles that you can follow.

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Responding to Suicidal Students

This is National Suicide Prevention Week, and this year it comes amid reports of increased suicides and depression during the pandemic. Those of us who work with children and teenagers are likely to encounter clients who express suicidal thoughts. The good news is that there are many resources that can help us respond.

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Accommodating Anxiety and Depression During the Pandemic

One unfortunate side effect of coronavirus measures has been an increase in anxiety among our children. Most of the reports are anecdotal, but one study of Chinese students showed a significant increase in anxiety and depression among children quarantined for a mean of 34 days. Closer to home, 30% of parents participating in a May 2020 Gallup poll reported harm to their child’s emotional or mental health. These problems come on top of already rising rates of teen suicide.

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With so many children learning virtually this fall and otherwise having to keep in touch with their friends by electronic, cyberbullying is likely to be a bigger problem than usual. According to an industry study last year, almost 30% of children had experienced some sort of cyberbullying before the pandemic isolated everyone. Another study estimates that cyberbullying has almost doubled since the pandemic began.

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Pods and Paperwork

With the coronavirus closing so many schools this fall, “learning pods” have become very popular. Many childcare centers, day camps, and other organizations have developed programs to provide on-site learning pods for children, with tutors, computers, and dedicated rooms. Other groups do not have the physical plant but provide tutors to meet with groups of children in private homes. If your organization is gearing up to meet this need, do not forget some important basic principles.

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COVID-19 Vaccination and State School/Childcare Vaccination Laws


Mandatory vaccination laws were first enacted in the early 19th century, beginning with Massachusetts’ smallpox vaccination law in 1809. Generally, courts have ruled that the policing power of States absolutely includes reasonable regulations, such as vaccinations laws, established by State legislatures to protect public health and safety. State vaccination laws are mostly applied to children for school or childcare enrollment or employees of certain health care facilities. With this in mind and in anticipation of a vaccine for COVID-19, many wonder if children and healthcare employees will be the first population sectors in which States will require compulsory vaccination under existing laws. If that is the case, many schools, childcare facilities, parents and community leaders may question if it is a “reasonable regulation” to vaccinate a population sector least affected by COVID-19, being children, to protect the public health and safety of all.

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Masks or No Masks

One vexing question as schools and childcare centers reopen is whether to require children to wear masks.  Although the emerging consensus is that face coverings help prevent the spread of the disease, experienced care providers know that children, particularly younger children, are not likely to wear them properly.  Teachers will spend most of their time reminding children to put on their masks, helping them find their masks, and telling them that masks are not slingshots. 

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American Academy of Pediatrics Urges Schools to Open


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) surprised everyone recently with guidance urging that all decisions for school this coming year “start with a goal of having students physically present in school.” The guidance recognized concerns about COVID-19, but cited “mounting evidence” that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe problems from the virus. It also noted that “children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection.” The AAP urges policymakers to balance mitigation efforts with “the known harms to children, adolescents, families, and the community by keeping children at home.”

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Reopening Schools, Fall 2020


Both the state of Georgia and the CDC have released guidance to help school authorities “determine their plans and strategies for reopening schools” in the fall, whatever of the status of the pandemic.  While neither document is binding, they will be important in establishing the standard of care for both independent and public schools.  The guidelines focus on the ability to open buildings and allow students to move freely, based on the degree of potential community spread. 

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An Anticipated Coronavirus Vaccine: How will Georgia Schools & Daycare Handle Vaccination Exemptions?


In anticipation of a vaccine for the COVID-19 this fall, it is a good time to revisit the vaccinations requirements in your State and determine if your institution/business will be obligated to require COVID-19 vaccination of your daycare or student population and/or possibly your staff/employees.  In review of Georgia law, vaccinations are required for all children entering school or attending a daycare center.  Georgia law allows two exceptions to vaccinations—medical necessity and religious objections.  In Georgia the laws allow private schools and daycare centers to accept the medical and/or religious exemptions, but do not require them to do so.  Additionally, with the infection rate of COVID-19 and the World pandemic of the virus, in Georgia protection of public safety is a legal reason for both public and private schools and daycare centers not to recognize such exemptions.

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