Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse in Community Colleges – Training Not Mandated but “Notice” is Still Required
While the majority of Community College students are over the age of 18, many community colleges around the state offer dual enrollment classes for high school students, as well as elective courses for minors. As a result, children may be present on community college campuses, and may regularly come into contact with college employees. The question then becomes, what requirements, if any, must be met by community colleges to train employees under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (“CANRA”)?
Notably, community colleges do not have the same mandated training requirements as K-12 school districts. In fact, community colleges are not required to train their employees—even mandated reporters—of their obligations to report child abuse and neglect under CANRA. Nevertheless, community colleges have other obligations with respect to the employment of mandated reporters at the community college level. Specifically, colleges must provide all mandated reporters with relevant sections of the California Penal Code, as well as obtain signed statements from those employees indicating that they understand their reporting requirements and agree to comply as necessary.
A “mandated reporter” for purposes of CANRA includes: “An employee or administrator of a public or private postsecondary educational institution, whose duties bring the administrator or employee into contact with children on a regular basis, or who supervises those whose duties bring the administrator or employee into contact with children on a regular basis, as to child abuse or neglect occurring on that institution’s premises or at an official activity of, or program conducted by, the institution.” (Penal Code § 11165.7(41).) CANRA considers community college instructors, classified employees, and counselors whose duties place them in a position to observe potential instances of child abuse or neglect as “mandated reporters.”
Community colleges are “strongly encouraged” to offer mandated reporter training to all employees who work directly with minors. (Penal Code section 11165.7(c).) However, annual training is not a requirement.
Assembly Bill 1153 proposed to make mandated reporter training for community college districts mandatory, as it is for K-12 districts, but it was vetoed by the Governor on October 13, 2019. The Governor’s reasoning being that postsecondary educational institutions, including community colleges, are already required to inform its employees of their responsibilities as mandated reporters.
While training is not required, Penal Code section 11166.5 states that employers, including community colleges, must provide copies of Penal Code Sections 11165.7, 11166, and 11167 to each mandated reporter. Penal Code section 11166.5 further states that mandated reporters employed by community colleges must sign a statement that they have knowledge of the child abuse reporting requirements of Section 11166 and will comply with those provisions if necessary. Community colleges must retain those employee statements.