Parents have come to realize that child abuse can happen in any setting, even school. Child abuse in school can be particularly damaging because it affects the child’s ability to focus and learn. When educators and school staff take advantage of their positions to hurt children, the Chicago child abuse lawyers of Hale & Monico go to work.
Why Child Abuse Happens In School
Child abuse is more prevalent in schools than many parents would like to admit. And it’s not just in public schools: enrolling a child in a private school is no guarantee abuse won’t happen. But statistics don’t tell the whole story. That’s because research has shown that much of the abuse goes unreported. Teachers and staff are in a position of power over young, relatively defenseless, and impressionable students. Too many times, that power is exploited to hurt children.
Children are often too afraid to speak out or don’t know how to report abuse. They may be intimidated or embarrassed, and the abuse is allowed to continue. Adding to this, some students are too young to even realize abuse is happening. This is especially problematic with respect to sexual abuse.
Other educators and staff are often the only ones who stand between abuse being reported or not. But for whatever reason, many of them simply fail to say anything. In some of the worst cases of abuse, there may be more than one individual involved. Conspiracies of this nature can perpetuate the problem for a long time.
The Role Of Mandated Reporters in Chicago Schools
All Chicago Public School (CPS) system staff members are mandatory reporters. That means as a condition of their employment, school employees are required to report physical and sexual abuse of students. That covers teachers, aides, coaches, school administrators, and other personnel. Even school board members are mandated reporters.
Mandated reports are required to immediately report suspected child abuse. Failure to do so can subject a mandated reporter to criminal penalties. The reporter does not have to investigate the abuse or substantiate claims that it is occurring. But the law requires reporters to notify the state Department of Children and Family Services.
CPS staff are trained to understand their obligations as mandated reporters. As recently as the 2018-19 school year, CPS committed to retraining their employees to ensure they know what role they serve. The training that CPS employees have makes it even more inexcusable when an educator or other professional fails to speak up about abuse.
Signs Of Child Abuse In Schools
CPS staff who have a reasonable belief that abuse is happening must report it. But parents and other responsible adults should also understand what to look for in school child abuse cases. All of these individuals are in the best position to observe signs of abuse and say something about it. These are some of those signs.
- Unexplained burns, cuts, bruises, black eyes, bites, broken bones, or other signs of physical trauma
- Fading bruises or other marks which could indicate past abuse
- The child is timid around teachers or other adults
- The child is afraid to go to school
- Harsh discipline administered by a teacher or staff member
- Teachers or staff members make excessively negative statements about the student
- Unusual bruising, bleeding, or swelling in the genital area
- Difficulty sitting or walking
- Torn or stained undergarments
- Isolation, withdrawal, and other changes in mood or personality
- Nightmares and bedwetting
- Regressive behaviors, such as thumb-sucking in older children
- Inappropriate knowledge about sex or sexual topics
- Extreme changes in the child’s behavior
- Depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem
- The child withdraws from activities he or she once enjoyed
- Inappropriate behavior by the child showing emotional immaturity
- Running away from home
- Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts
- Poor performance in school
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, and your child may display other signs. Remember that children are often too afraid to say anything about abuse, and young children may not even know it is happening. Always be on the lookout for unusual, drastic, or inexplicable changes, and don’t be afraid to take action.
What To Do If A Child Is Abused In a Chicago School
As a parent, the revelation that your child is being abused in school can be overwhelming. The first thing you have to do is make sure your child gets the medical and professional treatment he or she needs for their injuries. Also, contact law enforcement about the abuse so a police report can be made. Then, get in touch with an experienced Chicago school child abuse attorney.
Your attorney will do a thorough investigation to uncover what exactly happened and who should be held liable. Another task is to determine the nature of the damages your child deserves. Abused children often need medical attention, counseling, therapy, and other services. These result in significant out of pocket expenses, which we will demand from the responsible parties. We also seek damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, and other suffering your child has endured.
The sooner you act, the sooner the abuse will end. The criminal court system will have its own role to play in bringing the educator or staff member to justice. But the civil system is there to demand the monetary compensation you and your family need. It’s imperative to speak with a knowledgeable school child abuse lawyer as soon as possible so the child’s healing can begin.
Contact Our Chicago School Child Abuse Attorney
No child should be subjected to abuse. School abuse can destroy a child’s innocence and jeopardize their future success as a student. For that reason, we hold abusers liable in court. Our compassionate team will investigate what happened and let you know about your legal rights. Contact Hale & Monico today if your child has been abused.