Pierce County Teacher Who Didn't Report Child Abuse At Home Did Not Break The Law
April 20, 2018
(OLYMPIA, WA.) -- The Washington State Supreme Court has spoken: a Pierce County teacher did not violate the state's mandatory reporting law when she didn't report allegations that her own children had been abused in her home, the court said Thursday.
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A Bethel School District middle school teacher was charged back in 2015 after she didn't report allegations that her then partner had inappropriately touched her daughters but she argued that she didn't learn of the alleged abuse in her role as a teacher.
The case, then in Superior Court ended with a judge dismissing the charges on that argument. Prosecutors then appealed the decison after which the state Court of Appeals overturned that judge's decision in a ruling that said teachers and other professionals must report child abuse, even if they learn of it outside their work.
The State Supreme Court was asked to review the case which then decided overwhelmingly - on a vote of 8-1 - that the original Superior Court judge acted correctly in dismissing the case saying that the alleged child abuse occurred in the teacher's residence and was perpetrated by another family member and there was no connection to her professional identity as a teacher.
In the ruling, Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote for the majority that the mandatory reporting law does not impose an unlimited, ever present duty because it refers to people by means of their occupation, not simply as adults or persons.
In that case, the stepfather pleaded guilty two years ago to first-degree child molestation and two counts of second-degree child molestation.
The woman's daughters told investigators they told their mother about the stepfather's inappropriate touching, but in the end it was a church pastor who reported the abuse to authorities.
The mother argued she did not have reasonable cause at the time to believe her daughters were being abused.