A School Employee and a School District May Be Sued For Showing A Report of Alleged Child Abuse to the Father

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In a decision published November 18, 2013, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, reversed the trial court’s determination that a school counselor and school district was immune from suit when a school counselor provided a copy of a report of suspected child abuse to the father.  The Court held that under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) a mandated reporter must keep the report of known or suspected child abuse confidential and  may only disclose the information to specific agencies and individuals identified in the statute – the parent of the child is not included.

Notably, the Court held that a Suspected Child Abuse Report (SCAR) is not a “pupil record” as defined in the Education Code and therefore, could not release the report even in certain emergency situations. As SCARs are not considered a pupil record, it may not be disclosed to any persons or entities not specifically identified in the statute under any circumstances.  As CANRA does not allow for any discretion in whom SCARs are disclosed to, discretionary immunity will not be afforded in a civil suit.     

As a consequence of this holding, school districts as well as all mandated child abuse reporters,  must maintain the strict confidentiality provisions of CANRA. Any violation of this confidentiality provision may result in potential civil liability as well as the imposition of criminal penalties.   Read the entire opinion here.

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