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Insights Insights
| 1 minute read

Mandated Reporter Must Face Civil Suit

Mandated reporter training often tells people that mandated reporters are immune from suit. That training is not completely accurate, because most statutes only protect good faith reports. To avoid immediate dismissal, a plaintiff’s attorney need only allege that the mandated reporter acted in bad faith. In such cases, the mandated reporter eventually may be exonerated, but he or she must face discovery and other stresses of being a civil defendant.

The latest example of this dynamic comes from Connecticut, where parents became disenchanted with the special education provided to their son. We have only their version of the facts that they set out in their complaint, in which they say ty withdrew their son from school in favor of home schooling. They allege that they told the school that they would be home-schooling their son, but the school social worker nevertheless reported them to child protection services for educational neglect. The parents had to undergo a child welfare investigation, but eventually were exonerated. They then sued the school social worker for making the referral.

The social worker moved to dismiss the suit on several grounds, including the immunity offered to a mandated reporter. The court denied the motion, ruling that the lawsuit can proceed. On the immunity issue, the court reviewed Connecticut law, which holds that any person who “in good faith” makes a report “shall be immune from any liability, civil or criminal, which might otherwise arise from or be related to the actions taken pursuant to” the mandated reporter law. Because the complaint alleged that social worker reported educational neglect when she knew that the parents were home-schooling the child, the court ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.

The takeaway from this case is that the usual promises of immunity are overrated. You are protected from suit for good faith reports, but you may have to go through a trial to prove your good faith. For that reason, we always advise organizations to be sure to take several important steps. First, be sure that you document in real time the basis for your concerns. Second, be sure that you make your report within the statutory deadline. Finally, and perhaps most important, be sure that your insurance policy covers these sorts of claims. Don’t simply assume that you will get the benefit of the doubt. You need to always be prepared to demonstrate your good faith for mandated reports.

Because the plaintiffs’ allegations allege that the defendant knew or should have known that such an allegation of educational neglect was false, this then suggests that the report was not made in good faith and, therefore, the qualified immunity protection for mandated reporters may not apply.


mandated reporter, ausburn_deborah, youth services law, insights