An Arkansas jury has acquitted a school employee for failure to reports his brother’s sexual abuse of various children. The brother pled guilty to abusing numerous children, including two relatives. According to an affidavit that the police filed, the mandated reporter admitted during the police interview that another relative had told him about the assaults against family members, but he had not reported it.
At trial, according to defense counsel, the jury heard the actual tape of the police interview. In it, the mandated reporter said that his relative told him about the assaults, but he didn’t believe her because she continued to send her child to visit with the perpetrator. Jurors apparently decided those facts didn’t meet the Arkansas standard of “reasonable cause to suspect” abuse.
This prosecution, even though it ended in acquittal, should be a warning to other mandated reporters. This defendant had to endure a nerve-wracking and certainly expensive criminal trial. Until his acquittal, he likely was unable to work in any job in education or with any youth organization. In many states, he might be placed on the child abuse registry regardless of the outcome of the criminal proceedings.
The lesson here is that whenever you hear a clear accusation of abuse, do not make any decisions about credibility. No matter what you suspect about the truth of the allegations, simply hearing them obligates you to make a report. Otherwise, you could be facing charges and trying to find a job in another field while you hope for an acquittal.