ONE SMALL STEP FOR CALIFORNIA SCHOOLS, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR INSTITUTIONAL SAFETY
Summary: Tom Torlakson, California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, released guidelines for parents and guardians to report allegations of child abuse, in addition to supporting mandatory reporting training for educators in California. Protection of children is a critical requirement in our schools, and California’s top educator is pressing the issue in Sacramento. There’s more to be done on this front, but this is a good start.
Something good came out of Sacramento yesterday. Tom Torlakson, California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, released guidelines for parents and guardians to report child abuse. Formal guidance or legislation that protects our children is innately beneficial to both the parents of alleged victims and to the schools – it empowers parents to take action, and it protects the school from being placed in a situation where they fail to report an allegation of abuse. Just to hit the wave tops of this new guidance:
– Gives power to the parents and guardians in the process by adding another layer of protection for children.
– Clearly defines what ‘is’ and ‘is not’ child abuse; there is a clear difference in this guidance between a teacher harming your child on purpose and a mutual fight between two children.
– Parents have the right to report allegations to law enforcement; this includes the Police Department, a County Probation Department, or Welfare/Child Protective Services.
– Local law enforcement is required to investigate all complaints.
– This guidance is mandatory by California Education Code
Torlakson has done more than just simply push out a “how-to” guide for parents. Overall, he has mostly proven to be on the front-lines for our children. Last month, he publically endorsed Assembly Bill 1432, proposed by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) that would require school employees to receive mandatory reporter training, and to recertify annually. His support on this important measure and Assembly Bill 375 (which streamlines the process for teacher dismissals) is worthy of mention; however, so is his lack of a voice for other important measures, including Senate Bill 1530, which would give schools the authority to suspend teachers unilaterally in abuse allegation cases. We are unapologetically biased toward protecting our children, and understand that not everybody in Sacramento sees things the way we see them; however, we feel that Torlakson, like too many of our politicians, placed their support into the wrong bill.
With AB 1432, we feel it is a strong step toward making children’s safety a priority in our schools – we also feel like it’s not expansive enough. While we hope AB 1432 gets legislated, we would like to see this extend beyond the school; we want to see this in all types of institutions; seeing this requirement levied on sports coaches, the Church, Boys and Girls Scouts leaders, and care would do even more to make our community a safer one. Our opinion aside, we need more people like Torlakson inside of California’s Assembly and Senate; high-level leaders who are invested in the protection of our children.