Police have charged a principal in Missouri for failure to report alleged sexual activity between students in the school. The students were close in age, so it doesn’t seem to be an issue of statutory rape, so presumable at some point, there was a claim of coercion. According to another news report, the principal conducted his own investigation, but neither of the students disclosed any sexual activity. Nevertheless, a third student had told him that the victim had told her about the disclosure, and that knowledge was enough to trigger mandated reporter obligations.
This illustrates one of the important principles we teach our clients — any clear disclosure of abuse, whether directly from the victim or indirectly from another person, triggers an obligation to make a mandated report. At one time, administrators might have been able to wait until the conclusion of an internal investigation or rely on their expertise and knowledge of students. Those days are long gone. Mandated reporters in most states have no discretion, but must simply relay every disclosure.
This rule doesn’t mean that you cannot conduct an internal investigation. It simply means that you must make a report within the statutory deadline, whether that’s before or during your investigation. Never use an internal investigation to decide whether to make a mandated report. The laws simply do not allow you that level of discretion.