Duty to Report Suspected Child Abuse and Mandatory Training

Mandatory reporting applies to all individuals and is not limited to teachers or health care professionals. The law extends to individuals whose personal communications may be otherwise privileged, such as attorneys, clergy members, and health care professionals. Therefore, all SMU employees should be familiar with Texas law pertaining to reporting suspected child abuse or neglect.

Texas Mandatory Reporting Law

Section 261.101 of the Texas Family Code mandates that anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect must report it immediately. The report may be made to (1) any local or state law enforcement agency, including the SMU Police Department; or (2) the Department of Family and Protective Services.

All persons are required to make the report immediately, and individuals who are licensed or certified by the state or who work for an agency or facility licensed or certified by the state and have contact with children as a result of their normal duties, such as teachers, nurses, doctors, and day-care employees, must report the abuse or neglect within 48 hours.

Texas law broadly defines "abuse" and "neglect" so that every action in which a child's physical or mental health or welfare has been or may be adversely affected is potentially covered.  The statute explicitly excludes an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent or guardian that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm.  However, if there is a question whether conduct constitutes "abuse" or "neglect," always err on the side of the child's safety and report the incident.

A person acting in good faith who reports or assists in the investigation of a report of child abuse or neglect is immune from civil or criminal liability.  Failure to report suspected child abuse or neglect is a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $4,000.

Section 51.976 of the Texas Education Code requires any individual employed in a position involving contact with minors at a campus program for minors to complete a training program approved by the State of Texas within the two years prior to the start date of the program, but no later than the 5th day of employment of the individual, by the campus program for minors.

Implications for Employees

All SMU faculty, staff and student employees are required at the time employment begins to successfully complete an approved training program on sexual abuse and child molestation.

In addition, all contract agencies, vendors, or camp operators renting space and/or hosting camps on SMU campuses, or connected to SMU programs involving contact with minor children, must show evidence of completed training for all personnel prior to the start of the program or camp.  Recertification of training completion for each individual is required every two years.

How to Report

If you suspect child abuse or neglect has taken place on the SMU campus or at any SMU function, program, or event, immediately make a report to the SMU Police Department at 214-768-3333.  SMU employees must also report such conduct to a supervisor or department head, but merely reporting the incident to a supervisor or department head is insufficient. If there is an immediate threat, call 911.