Reports Involving Minors

YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO REPORT UNDER WASHINGTON STATE LAW

ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE OR HARM OF A MINOR

The Washington State Legislature recently passed a law entitled ESSB 5991 CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT -- REPORTING – HIGHER EDUCATION.   The law requires the University to report to proper law enforcement or Child Protective Services when the University has “a reasonable cause to believe” that abuse or neglect of a minor has occurred.

The law states that all employees in higher education, including student employees and volunteers who have “reasonable cause to believe” that a minor has experienced abuse or neglect must “immediately report to the appropriate administrator, as designated by the institution”.  The report is required when the perceived victim is under the age of 18. 

Washington State Law defines abuse or neglect as …”sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or injury of a child by any person under circumstances which cause harm to the child’s health, welfare, or safety…”

This memo sets forth the individual obligation that each of us has to report our knowledge of abuse or neglect of a minor.

WHAT TO REPORT:

  • Abuse or neglect of a minor, including the name of the accused if known
  • Abuse or neglect that occurred during childhood if the victim is still under the age of 18
  • Err on the side of caution.  If in doubt, report.

WHEN TO REPORT:

·       At the first opportunity but no later than 48 hours after you have reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred.

TO WHOM TO REPORT:

Call Campus Public Safety and Security at 313-2222 or extension 2222 and inform the person that you are making a report under the Washington State Law; keep a note of the date/time you called.

When you make a report to the appropriate designated official, your obligation is fulfilled. 

For more information or for answers to your questions, please contact Victoria Loveland, Title IX Coordinator, (509) 313-6910; loveland@gu.gonzaga.edu.  Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about this law and your obligation to report.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does this law apply to faculty and staff who do not have access to children through camps, volunteer opportunities, service learning projects, or in other extracurricular activities?

Yes.  About 10% of students in our entering freshman class are under 18.  So, all campus community members may have contact with minors in the course of their work.

What if a student tells me something I believe should be reported but the student asks me to keep it confidential?

If the student has told you information that you believe needs to be reported, explain to the student that his/her safety and well-being and the safety and security of the community are most important and that the law requires you to report.  Tell the student that even though you must report, the student’s information will be kept as private as possible consistent with the law, and the student will be involved in the process of how the University handles the complaint.  Refer the student, or offer to accompany the student to Student Development, the Counseling Center, or the Health Center for immediate care and support services. Once you “have reasonable cause to believe”, you must report.  Explain how and to whom you will report, and that after you report, someone from Student Development will contact her/him.

Who should I call if I don’t know whether or not I should report?

Call Student Development and ask for a member of the Student Development Leadership team.  Additionally, you may contact Campus Public Safety and Security, or consult with the Title IX Coordinator.

If I receive a disclosure from a student, should I ask the student her/his age?

Yes, if there is any doubt whatsoever you should ask a student if she/he is a minor as early as possible during a “disclosure conversation”.  Reporting requirements are different when minors are involved. If you know the student is underage, you should include this in your report to Campus Public Safety and Security.  If you are not sure about the student’s age, report as if the student is a minor.  

Do I have any protection regarding this reporting requirement?

Yes, state law provides that any person “participating in good faith” in the making of a report or testifying as to alleged child abuse or neglect is immune from any liability arising out of such reporting or testifying.  The law also provides that a person who “intentionally and in bad faith knowinagly makes a false report” of abuse or neglect shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and one so doing may also be subject to civil liability.