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New online training aims to ferret out child abuse cases in California schools



File: California school employees can now take their required training to spot child abuse and neglect by going online.
File: California school employees can now take their required training to spot child abuse and neglect by going online.
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Public school employees can take their required annual training to spot child abuse or neglect online, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced Monday.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our students,” Torlakson said in a written statement. “The new online training lessons will help school employees carry out their responsibilities to protect children and take action if they suspect abuse or neglect.”

A new California law requires school employees, including teachers, teacher aides, and substitute teachers, to show proof to their employers that they’ve taken the training.

“We were hearing anecdotally that there may have been suspicions of abuse and neglect that was not always reported and we wanted to do something about that issue,” said Stephanie Papas, a California Department of Education consultant.

Recent high-profile cases, such as that of former Miramonte Elementary teacher Mark Berndt, revealed that school employees failed to report allegations of abuse. Los Angeles Unified agreed to pay a record $140 million to settle claims filed by one group of students in the case and $30 million to a second group. Berndt is serving a 25-year sentence after pleading no contest to the charges of committing lewd acts on children.

Papas, who helped create the new two-hour online training, said the course will help employees tell if a child has been hurt from abuse or from an accident, for example.

“We have photos that are examples of, say, a welt that is in the shape of a belt buckle or a slap on a child’s cheek that’s left a hand imprint,” she said.

In-person trainings are more effective, she said, but they’re more expensive than online trainings. That pushed the Department of Education to provide the free online training for school districts still under budget constraints.

She said current employees have until this fall to show their school districts proof that they’ve taken the training.