Teachers’ reports of child abuse conversations are admissible

A recent data from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence indicated that four in every ten children in the U.S. have been victims to some kind of abuse or violence in the last year. While about 37 percent of children had been physically assaulted, almost 10 percent of them were resultantly injured. Further, two percent of girls reported being sexually assaulted or abused, of which four percent were aged 14 to 17.

A 3 ½ year old boy from Ohio had wounds on his body which were visible to his teachers at the day care center. Upon questioning, it was discovered that Darius Clark, his mother’s boyfriend had caused those injuries. Since the child was too young to testify reliably in court, the teachers’ reports were admitted in trial. Clark was sentenced to 28 years of imprisonment by the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. He appealed against the convictions and the associated sentence.

In June 2015, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled that a teacher’s report of child abuse based on conversations with young children can be admitted as testimony in court regardless of the defendant’s constitutional right to confront his accuser.[1] This decision by the Supreme Court in this case has set a nationwide precedent.

The Supreme Court observed that “[a]s a historical matter, moreover, there is strong evidence that statements made in circumstances like these were regularly admitted at common law”, and that the child’s conversation with his teachers was “highly relevant.”

Lily Eskelsen García, the National Education Association President opined that “[m]andatory reporting laws (for teachers) aren’t about prosecuting crimes, but are there to protect abused or neglected children and to ensure those children and their families get the help and support they deserve.”

 


[1] Ohio v. Clark, No. 13–1352 (June 18, 2015)



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