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Principles of Professional Conduct of the Profession of Education at Grace Christian School
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To comply with the requirements established by the Florida Ethics in Education Act, Florida Statute §1002.421, through the adoption, implementation, and enforcement of a policy that regulates and creates ethical standards in employment and notifies all staff of their obligations to report child abuse.
1.TRAINING REQUIREMENT: All instructional personnel and administrators are required as a condition of employment to complete training on these standards of ethical conduct.
2.REPORTING MISCONDUCT BY INSTRUCTIONAL PERSONNEL AND ADMINISTRATORS: All employees and administrators have an obligation to report misconduct by instructional personnel and school administrators which affects the health, safety, or welfare of a student. Examples of misconduct include obscene language, drug and alcohol use, disparaging comments, prejudice or bigotry, sexual innuendo, cheating or testing violations, physical aggression, and accepting or offering favors. Reports of misconduct of employees should be made to Barry McKeen at 813-857-3644. Reports of misconduct committed by administrators should be made to William Johnson at 813-689-2701.
Legally sufficient allegations of misconduct by Florida certified educators will be reported to the Office of Professional Practices Services. Policies and procedures for reporting misconduct by instructional personnel or school administrators which affects the health, safety, or welfare of a student are posted in the teacher copy room and test center and are posted on the school website at www.gracechristianschool.com
3.REPORTING CHILD ABUSE, ABANDONMENT, OR NEGLECT: All employees and agents have an affirmative duty to report all actual or suspected cases of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect. Call 1-800-96-ABUSE or report online at: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/abuse/report/.
Signs of Physical Abuse The child may have unexplained bruises, welts, cuts, or other injuries; broken bones; or burns. A child experiencing physical abuse may seem withdrawn or depressed, seem afraid to go home or may run away, shy away from physical contact, be aggressive, or wear inappropriate clothing to hide injuries.
Signs of Sexual Abuse The child may have torn, stained or bloody underwear, trouble walking or sitting, pain or itching in genital area, or a sexually transmitted disease. A child experiencing sexual abuse may have unusual knowledge of sex or act seductively, fear a particular person, seem withdrawn or depressed, gain or lose weight suddenly, shy away from physical contact, or run away from home.
Signs of Neglect The child may have unattended medical needs, little or no supervision at home, poor hygiene, or appear underweight. A child experiencing neglect may be frequently tired or hungry, steal food, or appear overly needy for adult attention.
Patterns of Abuse: Serious abuse usually involves a combination of factors. While a single sign may not be significant, a pattern of physical or behavioral signs is a serious indicator and should be reported.
4.LIABILITY PROTECTIONS: Any person, official, or institution participating in good faith in any act authorized or required by law, or reporting in good faith any instance of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect to the department or any law enforcement agency, shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability which might otherwise result by reason of such action. (F.S. 39.203)
An employer who discloses information about a former or current employee to a prospective employer of the former or current employee upon request of the prospective employer or of the former or current employee is immune from civil liability for such disclosure or its consequences unless it is shown by clear and convincing evidence that the information disclosed by the former or current employer was knowingly false or violated any civil right of the former or current employee protected under F.S. Chapter 760. (F.S. 768.095)
Florida Statute §220.187 Florida Statute §1002.39 Florida Statute §1002.41 Florida Statute §1012.01 Florida Statute §1012.315 Florida Statute §39.203 Florida Statute §768.095 Florida Statute §1001.10(5) Florida Statute §1012.315 Florida Statute §943.0542
A. “Staff with direct student contact” means any employee, volunteer, or contracted personnel, who has unsupervised access to a scholarship student for whom the private school is responsible. B. “Teachers” means staff members assigned the professional activity of instructing students in courses in classroom situations, including basic instruction, exceptional student education, career education, and adult education, including substitute teachers. C. “School administrator” includes: 1. School principals or school directors who are staff members performing the assigned activities as the administrative head of a school and to whom have been delegated responsibility for the coordination and administrative direction of the instructional and non–instructional activities of the school. 2. Assistant principals or other school administrators who are staff members assisting the administrative head of the school.
NON-DISCRIMINATION CLAUSE: As a religious entity, Grace Christian School is legally permitted to make enrollment and employment decisions based upon religious criteria, including doctrinal and lifestyle issues. It is the policy of Grace Christian School to employ persons who subscribe without reservation to the Grace Christian School Statement of Faith and Principles of Professional Conduct and who are living out these doctrines and standards in all areas of their lives, both at and away from Grace Christian School functions. Grace Christian School does not discriminate in employment on the basis of race, color, sex (as determined at birth and not subject to change), ethnicity, age, disability, or any other characteristic protected by law.
EMPLOYMENT SCREENING: All teachers, whether paid or volunteer, will hold the appropriate bachelor’s degree for their division of the school, have at least three (3) years of teaching experience in public or private schools, OR have special skills, knowledge, or expertise that qualifies them to provide instruction in subjects taught.
All staff members, whether paid or volunteer, who have direct student contact will undergo a state and national background screening, pursuant to Florida Statute §943.0542, by electronically filing with the
Department of Law Enforcement a complete set of fingerprints taken by an authorized law enforcement agency or an employee of Grace Christian School, a school district, or a private company who is trained to take fingerprints and deny employment to or terminate an employee if he or she fails to meet the screening standards under Florida Statute §435.04. Results of the screening shall become the property of Grace Christian School.
No person having direct student contact will begin working with the school, in any capacity, without first submitting to a state and national background screen. Upon notification that a staff member or potential staff member has failed the background screening, the staff member or potential staff member will be dismissed or denied employment.
All staff members with direct student contact will undergo background screening every (five) 5 years. Upon notification that a staff member has failed the background screening, the staff member will be immediately dismissed. All potential staff members who will have direct student contact will provide past employer references as a part of their pre-employment screening process. No staff members will begin service to the ministry until the ministry has contacted or has reasonably attempted to contact all past employer references. All contact will be documented and become the property of Grace Christian School.
All staff members with direct student contact will be screened using the following Department of Education’s educator screening tools:
• The Professional Practices’ Database of Disciplinary Actions Against Educators • The Department of Education’s Teacher Certification Database described
All findings will be documented and will become the property of Grace Christian School.
DISQUALIFYING CRIMES: Staff members that have direct contact with students will be disqualified from employment or volunteer service if an employment screening document, interview or background check reveals a conviction for any of the following offenses. If an employment screening document, interview or background check reveals an arrest, investigation, or accusation, potential employees must be prepared to discuss these issues prior to hiring.
A. Any felony offense prohibited under any of the following Florida Statutes: 1. Section 393.135, relating to sexual misconduct with certain developmentally disabled clients and reporting of such sexual misconduct; 2. Section 394.4593, relating to sexual misconduct with certain mental health patients and reporting of such sexual misconduct; 3. Section 415.111, relating to adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation of aged persons or disabled adults; 4. Section 782.04, relating to murder; 5. Section 782.07, relating to manslaughter, aggravated manslaughter of an elderly person or disabled adult, aggravated manslaughter of a child, or aggravated manslaughter of an officer, a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, or a paramedic; 6. Section 784.021, relating to aggravated assault; 7. Section 784.045, relating to aggravated battery; 8. Section 784.075, relating to battery on a detention or commitment facility staff member or a juvenile probation officer; 9. Section 787.01, relating to kidnapping; 10. Section 787.02, relating to false imprisonment;
11. Section 787.025, relating to luring or enticing a child; 12. Section 787.04(2), relating to leading, taking, enticing, or removing a minor beyond the state limits, or concealing the location of a minor, with criminal intent pending custody proceedings; 13. Section 787.04(3), relating to leading, taking, enticing, or removing a minor beyond the state limits, or concealing the location of a minor, with criminal intent pending dependency proceedings or proceedings concerning alleged abuse or neglect of a minor; 14. Section 790.115(1), relating to exhibiting firearms or weapons at a school-sponsored event, on school property, or within 1,000 feet of a school; 15. Section 790.115(2)(b), relating to possessing an electric weapon or device, destructive device, or other weapon at a school-sponsored event or on school property; 16. Section 794.011, relating to sexual battery; 17. Former s. 794.041, relating to sexual activity with, or solicitation of a child by a person in familial or custodial authority. Section 794.05, relating to unlawful sexual activity with certain minors; 18. Section 794.08, relating to female genital mutilation; 19. Chapter 796, relating to prostitution; 20. Chapter 800, relating to lewdness and indecent exposure; 21. Section 806.01, relating to arson; 22. Section 810.14, relating to voyeurism. 23. Section 810.145, relating to video voyeurism; 24. Section 812.014(6), relating to coordinating the commission of theft in excess of $3,000.00; 25. Section 812.0145, relating to theft from persons sixty-five (65) years of age or older; 26. Section 812.13, relating to robbery; 28. Section 812.131, relating to robbery by sudden snatching; 29. Section 812.133, relating to carjacking; 30. Section 812.135, relating to home–invasion robbery; 31. Section 817.563, relating to fraudulent sale of controlled substances; 32. Section 825.102, relating to abuse, aggravated abuse, or neglect of an elderly person or disabled adult; 33. Section 825.103, relating to exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult; 34. Section 825.1025, relating to lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of an elderly person or disabled person; 35. Section 826.04, relating to incest; 36. Section 827.03, relating to child abuse, aggravated child abuse, or neglect of a child; 37. Section 827.04, relating to contributing to the delinquency or dependency of a child; 38. Section 827.071, relating to sexual performance by a child; 39. Section 843.01, relating to resisting arrest with violence; 40. Chapter 847, relating to obscenity; 41. Section 874.05, relating to causing, encouraging, soliciting, or recruiting another to join a criminal street gang; 42. Chapter 893, relating to drug abuse prevention and control, if the offense was a felony of the second degree or greater severity; 43. Section 916.1075, relating to sexual misconduct with certain forensic clients and reporting of such sexual misconduct; 44. Section 944.47, relating to introduction, removal, or possession of contraband at a correctional facility; 45. Section 985.701, relating to sexual misconduct in juvenile justice programs; and/or 46. Section 985.711, relating to introduction, removal, or possession of contraband at a juvenile detention facility or commitment program;
B. Any misdemeanor offense prohibited under any of the following statutes: 1. Section 784.03, relating to battery, if the victim of the offense was a minor; 2. Section 787.025, relating to luring or enticing a child; 3. Any criminal act committed in another state or under federal law which, if committed in this state, constitutes an offense prohibited under any statute listed in subsection (1) or subsection (2); and/or 4. Any delinquent act committed in this state or any delinquent or criminal act committed in another state or under federal law which, if committed in this state, qualifies an individual for inclusion on the Registered Juvenile Sex Offender List under s. 943.0435(1)(a)1.d. Dade Christian School understands that scholarship funding shall be suspended if Dade Christian School knowingly fails to comply with this subsection, and the Department of Education shall prohibit Dade Christian School from enrolling new scholarship students, for (one) 1 fiscal year and until the school complies.
CODE OF ETHICAL CONDUCT FOR STAFF MEMBERS Grace Christian School values the worth and dignity of every person, the pursuit of truth, devotion to excellence, acquisition of knowledge, and the nurture of spiritual growth. Essential to the achievement of these standards are the freedom to learn and to teach in a truly Christian environment. Grace Christian School’s primary professional concern will always be for the student and for the development of the student’s potential, both from an educational perspective and a spiritual perspective. Grace Christian School will therefore strive for professional and spiritual growth and will seek to exercise the best professional judgment and integrity while maintaining a proper Christian testimony. Aware of the importance of maintaining the respect and confidence of one’s colleagues, of students, of parents, and of other members of the community, Grace Christian School therefore strives to achieve and sustain the highest degree of ethical conduct.
PRINCIPLES OF PROFESSIONAL AND SPIRITUAL CONDUCT FOR TEACHERS AND STAFF MEMBERS: The following disciplinary rules shall constitute Grace Christian School’s ethical standards for all staff members. Violation of any of these standards shall subject the individual to discipline and/or dismissal. A. Obligation to the student requires that the individual: 1. Shall manifest by precept and example the highest Christian virtue and personal decorum, serving as a Christian Role Model both at and away from Grace Christian School, and as an example to all in judgment, dignity, respect, and Christian living; 2. Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning and/or to the student’s mental and/or physical health and/or safety; 3. Shall not engage in personal relationships with students outside of the classroom that are inappropriate, familiar or of an immature manner; 4. Shall not invite student to overnight outings, whether in teacher’s home or otherwise; 5. Shall not unreasonably restrain a student from independent action in pursuit of learning; 6. Shall not intentionally expose a student to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement; 7. Shall not intentionally violate or deny a student’s legal rights; 8. Shall not harass any student; 9. Shall not exploit a relationship with a student for personal gain or advantage; and 10. Shall keep in confidence personally identifiable information obtained in the course of professional service, unless disclosure serves professional purposes or is required by law.
B. Obligation to the public requires that the individual: 1. Shall subscribe without reservation to the Articles of Faith and the Standards of Conduct of Grace Christian School and agree to abide by these doctrines and standards in all aspects of my life, both at and away from ministry functions; 2. Shall understand that the bona fide occupational qualification of being a Christian Role Model includes, but is not limited to, abstaining from all acts of homosexuality, fornication, adultery, transvestitism and deviant gender identity; 3. As a full time teacher shall become a member of Grace Community Church or a church of like doctrine; faithfully attending regular weekend and midweek services and taking an active part in the total ministry program; 4. Shall not use institutional privileges for personal gain or advantage; 5. Shall accept no gratuity, gift, or favor that might influence professional judgment; (maximum acceptable gift would be a value of $500 or less) and 6. Shall offer no gratuity, gift, or favor to obtain special advantages. C. Obligation to the profession of education requires that the individual: 1. Shall maintain honesty in all professional dealings; 2. Shall remain loyal to the school leadership and Dade Christian School’s programs in word and in action; 3. Shall not engage in harassment or discriminatory conduct contrary to Grace Christian School’s statement of faith, which unreasonably interferes with an individual’s performance of professional or work responsibilities or with the orderly processes of education or which creates a hostile, abusive, offensive, or oppressive environment; and, further, shall make reasonable effort to assure that each individual is protected from such harassment or discrimination; 4. Shall abstain from the use of alcohol and tobacco products; 5. Shall not engage in any intimate sexual activity outside of a marriage between a member of the opposite sex, shall not engage in viewing pornography, and shall not make any attempt to alter my gender by surgery or appearance; 6. Shall understand that homosexual conduct defined as acts or identifying statements, is incompatible with employment at Grace Christian School and is a basis for dismissal; 7. Shall not make malicious or intentionally false statements about a colleague; 8. Shall not use coercive means or promise special treatment to influence professional judgments of colleagues; 9. Shall not misrepresent one’s own professional qualifications; 10. Shall not submit fraudulent information on any document in connection with professional activities; 11. Shall not make any fraudulent statement or fail to disclose a material fact in one’s own or another’s application for a professional position; 12. Shall not withhold information regarding a position from an applicant or misrepresent an assignment or conditions of employment; 13. Shall not assist entry into or continuance in the profession of any person known to be unqualified in accordance with this Code of Ethics; 14. Shall self-report within forty-eight (48) hours to the school administrator any arrests/charges involving the abuse of a child or the sale and/or possession of a controlled substance. Such notice shall not be considered an admission of guilt, nor shall such notice be admissible for any purpose in any proceeding, civil or criminal, administrative or judicial, investigatory or adjudicatory. In addition, shall self-report any conviction, finding of guilt, withholding of adjudication, commitment to a pretrial diversion program, or entering of a plea of guilty or Nolo Contendre for any criminal offense other than a minor traffic violation within forty-eight (48) hours after the final judgment. When handling sealed and expunged records disclosed under this rule, school shall
comply with the confidentiality provisions of Sections 943.0585(4)(c) and 943.059(4)(c), Florida Statutes; 15. Shall understand and agree that God’s command for my role as a member of the staff is for me to perform at the will of the school leadership. Following this command of God, I agree to perform all duties and responsibilities entrusted to me by the Grace Christian School leadership to their complete and full satisfaction; 16. Shall report to appropriate authorities any known allegation of a violation of the Florida School Code or State Board of Education Rules as defined in Section 1012.795(1), Florida Statutes; 17. Shall seek no reprisal against any individual who has reported any allegation of a violation against me.
CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS: Grace Christian School, or any of its employees, may not enter into a confidentiality agreement regarding terminated or dismissed staff members, or staff members who resign in lieu of termination, based in whole or in part on misconduct that affects the health, safety, or welfare of a student, and may not provide the staff member with employment references or discuss the personnel’s or administrators’ performance with prospective employers in another educational setting, without disclosing the staff member’s misconduct. Any part of an agreement or contract that has the purpose or effect of concealing misconduct by staff members which affects the health, safety, or welfare of a student is void, is contrary to public policy, and may not be enforced.
MANDATORY REPORTING REQUIREMENTS: Grace Christian School seeks to express God’s love of children and provide for their personal wholeness. This caring community seeks to prevent child abuse of any form to our children and youth and to minister to victims of abuse and their families. The Bible is foundational to our understanding upon which all policies, procedures, and ministries must stand. “And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13– 16) “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matthew 18:5–7) Our goal in response to these Biblical mandates is to maintain a safe, secure, and loving place where children may grow: a place where caregivers, teachers, and leaders (both paid and volunteer) minister appropriately to their needs. Grace Christian School desires to be a safe place for all children and adults who attend any activity. Individuals they know and trust sometimes victimize children. The ministry is not immune to such abuse, either by its members or by those in leadership positions. Incidents of child abuse or neglect cut across racial, social, economic and religious boundaries. Although no organization or individual can assure complete protection, this policy, along with the policy of Suspected Abuse Reporting Guidelines contained in the Grace Christian School Safety Manual reflects Grace Christian School’s commitment to help protect children from harm.
Grace Christian School will not tolerate child abuse or neglect. Staff cooperation in this commitment not only reflects a concern about children’s safety in this society, but also a willingness to take steps toward halting child abuse and its detrimental effects. For the safety and protection of our children and workers, all people who participate in Grace Christian School sponsored activities with children are required to comply with the guidelines provided in this policy in conjunction with the policy on Suspected Child Abuse in our Safety Manual. If Grace Christian School receives an allegation of child abuse, it will respond with the utmost concern to the victim, parent, or other party making such an allegation. The accused will be treated with dignity and support. Without clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, Grace Christian School’s personnel will assume that such complaints are made in good faith. Persons making such complaints should have no doubt that Grace Christian School takes them seriously and will take appropriate action. When it becomes necessary to report suspected child abuse or neglect, the protection of children must be the most important concern. It is the legal responsibility of any person with responsibility for the care of children to report all cases of child abuse they observe, and further, to report visible signs of alleged abuse. Failure to report could lead to liability, both civilly and criminally, on the part of Grace Christian School, the observer or both. Grace Christian School has determined that it is the responsibility of the program staff to report all cases of suspected child abuse to the proper legal authorities. What is reasonable suspicion? Reasonable suspicion means that there is credible evidence or a discrepant or inconsistent history in explaining a child’s suspected abuse. A report based on reasonable suspicion does not require proof that abuse or neglect has actually occurred or that the reporter witnessed the incident in question. Reporting is not a determination that child abuse or neglect has actually occurred; rather, it is a request for an assessment of the condition of a child. Because we believe children are our most important concern, Grace Christian School has adopted the following guidelines for reporting: A. Treat each allegation of child abuse seriously. B. Attempt to assure the safety and protection of persons who have been harmed. C. Pray for Grace Christian School and all persons affected by the allegation. D. Immediately begin documenting all procedures observed in handling the allegation. E. Immediately notify the school administrator or principal. The school administrator or principal will, along with the reporting staff member, immediately report allegations to the Department of Children and Family Services. F. Immediately notify the parents if it is not known that they have previous knowledge of the allegations, and allegations are not currently against them. G. As appropriate, the school administrator shall immediately notify Grace Christian School’s insurance carrier of the possibility of a claim. If the abuse allegation does not implicate a Grace Christian School staff member or Grace Christian School volunteer, this step may be omitted. H. If the accused has assigned duties within Grace Christian School, that person will be immediately relieved of his duties until the investigation is concluded. I. Grace Christian School authorities should extend whatever care and resources necessary. In providing care to the principals (alleged victim and the accused) and their families, the pastor, ministry leader, and/or school authorities, should under no circumstances be drawn into a discussion of the truth or falsity of the allegation which could contaminate an official investigation. Do not assign blame or take any steps that involve establishing or negating the allegation. J. It is appropriate to show care and comfort for the alleged victim. This should be the pastoral objective from the moment the allegation is received or otherwise made known. K. Observe confidentiality for both the alleged victim and the accused until advised to the contrary by the school administrator.
L. Do not confront the accused until the safety of the child or student is secured. M. Do not prejudge the situation, but take the allegations seriously and reach out to the alleged victim and his or her family. N. Treat the accused with dignity and support. O. If the media or other parties contact a ministry official or school authorities about a pending allegation of child abuse, they should be referred to the principal or school administrator. Only the ministry leader, school authorities, or their designees should make comments about the allegations, using a prepared public statement to answer the press and to convey news to the congregation, staff members and school personnel. The prepared statement shall be made only after consultation with Grace Christian School’s attorney and will include the steps that Grace Christian School has taken to protect children, such as the development and implementation of this manual, and the care and concern Grace Christian School has for all parties involved. The privacy and confidentiality of all involved shall continue to be of primary concern.
Important Contacts and Their Phone Numbers National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD Florida Child Abuse Hotline (800) 96-ABUSE (800-962-2873) Department of Children and Services web site: http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/abuse/
Suspected Abuse Reporting Guidelines Purpose: The State of Florida has established a legal mandate and a moral imperative to promote the well-being of all students.
The Legal Mandate. The Department of Children and Families is responsible, as mandated in Chapter 39, F.S., for providing comprehensive protective services for abused, abandoned, exploited, and neglected children found in Florida by the requirement that reports of each abused, abandoned, or neglected child be made to the Florida Abuse Hotline. Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes further mandates that any person, including but not limited to any school teacher or other school official or contracted personnel who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, exploited, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, care giver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare shall report immediately such knowledge or suspicion to the Department of Children and Families. It is often difficult to define child abuse or neglect, since it is usually not a single physical act of deprivation, or a single act of molestation, but rather a pattern of behavior. The best rule of thumb to follow in determining what constitutes “suspected abuse” is when there is doubt as to whether a case is abuse. See Appendix for definitions.
Ways of Reporting Abuse There are four ways to make a report. Any one of the four will meet the legal mandate outlined in Chapter 39, Florida Statutes. 1) Telephone: Call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1 – 800 – 96ABUSE (1 – 800 – 962 – 2873 ). Prior to concluding the conversation, the reporter will always be told whether the information provided has been accepted as a report. 2) TDD: (Telephone Device for the Deaf): Call the Abuse Hotline at 1 – 800 – 453 – 5145. Prior to concluding the conversation, the reporter will always be told whether the information provided as been accepted as a report.
3) Facsimile or FAX: A written report utilizing the Florida Department of Children and Families Fax Transmittal Report (Procedure B-23 / Exhibit 1) with all information requested can be submitted to 1 – 800 – 914 – 0004. Reporters should not send copies of medical notes, case files, arrest reports, etc. The reporter may request confirmation that the fax was received. If the reporter does not request confirmation, notification will be provided only when additional information is needed to accept a report or when the report does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Department of Children and Families. A fax number must be clearly indicated on the report. If a fax number has been provided, the reporter can assume a report was accepted if no response was received from the hotline. Please note that the time frame involved in processing a fax may be longer than the time used in processing a phone call, which could possibly delay assistance to victims. 4) Online http://www.dcf.state.fl.us/abuse/report/ The Florida Abuse Hotline will accept a report when any of the following is in evidence: there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child (an unmarried person under the age of 18 who has not been emancipated by order of the court) who can be located in Florida, or is temporarily out of the state but expected to return, has been harmed or is believed to be threatened with harm, by a parent, legal custodian, care giver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare.
Important Facts All reports are confidential and access to them is limited by specific criteria. Any person making a report in good faith in complying with this statute shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability. [s.39.203, F.S.] There is a legal penalty for not reporting. No principal or school administrator can mandate that an employee follow any procedure for reporting, other than the procedure required by state law. An employee is not mandated to report to anyone other than the State Abuse Hotline. Once an employee has correctly made a report to the Abuse Hotline, the legal requirement has been met. It is not the responsibility of the school staff to further investigate or prove that a child has been victimized or is in need of protection. It is the responsibility of the Florida Department of Children and Families child protective investigators and law enforcement staff to investigate. School district personnel do have a duty to give full cooperation, assistance, and information to the department that will enable the state child protection workers to fulfill their responsibilities for investigation of alleged cases and treatment.
Appendix: Definitions of Child Abuse. Listed below are definitions of child abuse components taken from Chapter 39, F.S. The list contained herein is not all inconclusive. Go to http://www.leg.state.fl.us/citizen/documents/statutes for a complete listing of definitions: Abandoned means a situation in which the parent or legal custodian of a child or, in the absence of a parent or legal custodian, the care giver responsible for the child’s welfare, while being able, makes no provision for the child’s support and makes no effort to communicate with the child, which situation is sufficient to evince a willful rejection of parental obligations. [s. 39.01 (1), F.S.] Abuse means any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions. Corporal discipline of a child by a parent or legal custodian for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child. [s.39.01(2),F.S.] Harm to a child’s health or welfare can occur when any person:
1) Inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child physical, mental, or emotional injury. In determining whether harm has occurred, the following factors must be considered in evaluating any physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child: the age of the child; any prior history of injuries to the child; the location of the injury on the body of the child; the multiplicity of the injury; and the type of trauma inflicted. Such injury includes, but is not limited to: a) willful acts that produce the following specific injuries: (1) sprains, dislocations, or cartilage damage; (2) bone or skull fractures; (3) brain or spinal cord damage; (4) intra cranial hemorrhage or injury to other internal organs; (5) asphyxiation, suffocation, or drowning; (6) injury resulting from the use of a deadly weapon; (7) burns or scalding; (8) cuts, lacerations, punctures, or bites; (9) permanent or temporary disfigurement; (10) permanent or temporary loss or impairment of a body part or function. As used in this subparagraph, the term “willful” refers to the intent to perform an action, not to the intent to achieve a result or to cause an injury. b) Purposely giving a child poison, alcohol, drugs, or other substances that substantially affect the child’s behavior, motor coordination, or judgment or that result in sickness or internal injury. For the purposes of this subparagraph, the term “drugs” means prescription drugs not prescribed for the child or not administered as prescribed, and controlled substances as outlined in Schedule I or Schedule II of Section 893.03, F.S. c) Leaving a child without adult supervision or arrangement appropriate for the child’s age or mental or physical condition, so that the child is unable to care for the child’s own needs or another’s basic needs or is unable to exercise good judgment in responding to any kind of physical or emotional crisis. d) Inappropriate or excessively harsh disciplinary action that is likely to result in physical injury, mental injury as defined in this section, or emotional injury. The significance of any injury must be evaluated in light of the following factors: the age of the child; any prior history of injuries to the child; the location of the injury on the body of the child; the multiplicity of the injury; and the type of trauma inflicted. Corporal discipline may be considered excessive or abusive when it results in any of the injuries identified in paragraph 2 C (1) a above or results in significant bruises or welts. 2) Commits, or allows to be committed, sexual battery, as defined in chapter 794, or lewd or lascivious acts, as defined in chapter 800, against the child. 3) Allows, encourages, or forces the sexual exploitation of a child, which includes allowing, encouraging, or forcing a child to: a) solicit for or engage in prostitution; or b.) engage in sexual performance, as defined by chapter 827 (F.S.). 4) Abandons the child. Within the context of the definition of “harm,” the term “abandons the child” means that the parent or legal custodian of a child or, in the absence of a parent or legal custodian, the person responsible for the child’s welfare, while being able, makes no provision for the child’s support and makes no effort to communicate with the child, which situation is sufficient to evince a willful rejection of parental obligation. If the efforts of such a parent or legal custodian or person primarily responsible for the child’s welfare to support and communicate with the child are only marginal efforts that do not evince a settled purpose to assume all parental duties, the child may be determined to have been abandoned.
5) Neglects the child. Within the context of the definition of “harm,” the term “neglects the child” means that the parent or other person responsible for the child’s welfare fails to supply the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, or health care, although financially able to do so or although offered financial or other means to do so. However, a parent or legal custodian who, by reason of the legitimate practice of religious beliefs, does not provide specified medical treatment for a child may not be considered abusive or neglectful for that reason alone, but such an exception does not: a) eliminate the requirement that such a case be reported to the department; b) prevent the department from investigating such a case; or c) preclude a court from ordering, when the health of the child requires it, the provision of medical services by a physician, as defined in this section, or treatment by a duly accredited practitioner who relies solely on spiritual means for healing in accordance with the tenets and practices of a well-recognized church or religious organization. 6) Exposes the child to a controlled substance or alcohol. Exposure to a controlled substance or alcohol is established by: a) use by the mother of a controlled substance or alcohol during pregnancy when the child, at birth, is demonstrably adversely affected by such usage; or b) continued chronic and severe use of a controlled substance or alcohol by a parent when the child is demonstrably adversely affected by such usage. As used in this paragraph, the term “controlled substance” means prescription drugs not prescribed for the parent or not administered as prescribed and controlled substances as outlined in Schedule I or Schedule II of section 893.03, F.S. 7) Use of mechanical devices, unreasonable restraints, or extended periods of isolation to control a child. 8) Engages in violent behavior that demonstrates a wanton disregard for the presence of a child and could reasonably result in serious injury to the child. 9) Negligently fails to protect a child in his or her care from inflicted physical, mental, or sexual injury caused by acts of another. 10) Has allowed a child’s sibling to die as a result of abuse, abandonment, or neglect. 11) Makes the child unavailable for the purpose of impending or avoiding a protective investigation unless the court determines that the parent, legal custodian, or care giver was fleeing from a situation involving domestic violence. [s.39.01(30), F.S.]
Grace Christian School Report Form for Suspected Abuse
Student’s Name: ______________________ Grade: ________ Gender: ___
Date of Incident: __________________ Date of Report: _______________
Why do you suspect abuse, neglect or exploitation? What happened? Describe the injury, if any.
How did you become aware of the situation? Explain the basis for the knowledge of the situation.
Are you aware of any prior history of abuse / neglect from anyone in the household? Any known prior reports or any conflict with the law?
Are there any other concerns? Besides the incident above, do you have any other concerns (e.g., parent uses drugs, etc.)?
Does anyone else know about this incident or have information that may be helpful?
_____Incident was reported to the Abuse Hotline or Appropriate Agency
_____Incident was not reported to the Abuse Hotline or Appropriate Agency
Teacher’s Signature ______________________________