BAINBRIDGE– This week, Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14) sent a letter to the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, urging the U.S. Department of Education to issue guidance that will set clear standards for how school systems can best utilize online learning platforms to ensure children can report abuse.
As of April 28, 2020, 43 states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia ordered or recommended schools close for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year. These orders impact approximately 45.1 million public school students, including 1.7 million Ohioans. Since schools have been closed, many states have seen significant drops in these reports, as teachers, counselors, administrators and other mandated reporters make up the majority of reports to state child abuse hotlines. Ohio’s Child Protective Services has seen more than a 50% drop in child abuse reporting since the pandemic began.
“This pandemic has created countless challenges for us as a nation, including the fact that children have lost access to environments and services that often provide opportunities to identify abuse and to offer protection,” said Joyce. “While necessary to fight the spread of coronavirus, school closures and shelter-in-place orders are having dangerous, unintended consequences on our children. That cannot continue to happen. Immediate action must be taken to overcome this unforeseen challenge. We need to enact additional safeguards to identify children in need of help and give them the guidance and tools necessary to seek that help.”
Joyce’s letter asks that this guidance encourage state Departments of Education to require the addition of a reporting function (via voice, online chat, email, or other technology, based on the capacity of each state) into their online learning platforms so that children can report abuse to their state child abuse hotlines. It also outlines that teachers should be directed to remind students that they can report abuse to them and that teachers can provide immediate assistance to students who may be experiencing abuse.
You can read the full text of the letter here.