The Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) pursuant to Penal Codes 11164 through 11174.3 is a body of California laws designed to protect children from suffering harm. California law requires people in positions of authority over children to report known or suspected abuse or neglect. Adults should always report any instances of actual or suspected child abuse or neglect. However, many professionals are considered mandatory reporters who must follow the mandatory reporting laws.
If you are considered a “mandatory reporter,” you must tell a local law enforcement agency or child welfare department if you are aware of or suspect child abuse or neglect. Telling your supervisor does not fulfill your obligation.
You must make the report within 36 hours of receiving information about the incident. You may submit the report confidentially.
If you are required to report actual or suspected incidences of child abuse or neglect and you fail to do so, or you impede the making of a mandatory report, you can be charged with a crime.
Former Elementary School Principal Convicted for Failing to Make Mandatory Report
In November 2012, Lyn Vijayendran, a former principal at a San Jose, California elementary school, was convicted of failing to make a mandatory report of child sexual abuse after learning a teacher was suspected of molesting one of his second grade students.1
When sentencing the former principal, the judge said “I agree with the jury’s verdict. You did what you thought was right … but I do think you made a very bad judgment that day.2”
The former principal had been told by an eight-year-old student that the teacher, Craig Chandler, had blindfolded another second grade female student and put something that was described as a “salty liquid” in her mouth. After the teacher convinced the principal that the incident was part of his “Helen Keller” lesson plan intended to teach students what it was like to be blind, the principal instructed the teacher to avoid using the lesson plan in the future.3
A jury ultimately convicted the accused teacher on five felony counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under 14 years old and multiple victim enhancements. He was sentenced to 75 years to life in prison.
Although the former principal avoided a maximum 6-month jail sentence and was instead granted two years’ probation and 100 hours of community service, her reputation as an educator has likely been tarnished.
Who Must Follow the Mandatory Reporting Laws?
There are many professionals who must comply with California’s mandatory reporting laws. California law lists dozens of different types of professionals who are considered mandatory reporters under Penal Code Section 11165.7, including, but not limited to the following:
- Educators – teachers, coaches, school and education administrators and other school employees;
- Medical professionals – doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, nurses and most healthcare workers;
- Clergy members – A clergy member is not required to report abuse or neglect if made known during a “penitential communication” (in other words, during confession);
- Social workers;
- Peace officers – police, probation and parole officers;
- Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT);
- Daycare facility employees;
- Marriage and family counselors;
- Child care workers, including foster parents;
- Film processors; and
- Computer technicians.
What Must Be Reported?
Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse and sexual exploitation are the most obvious types of abuse that must be reported. Sexual abuse of a child is any unlawful sexual activity involving a minor and includes crimes such as:
- Rape (PC 261);
- Incest; (PC 285);
- Sodomy (PC 286);
- Oral copulation (PC 288a);
- Lewd and lascivious acts with a child (PC 288);
- Penetration with a foreign object (PC 289); and
- Child Annoyance or molestation (PC 647.6).
Sexual exploitation under Penal Code Sections 311.1 through 311.12 includes promoting, permitting or coercing a minor to engage in unlawful sexual activity, such as:
- A live performance involving obscene sexual conduct; and/or
- Production and/or distribution of child pornography.
Other Child Abuse
Abuse can be anything that causes a child to intentionally suffer harm. Abuse can be emotional, verbal or psychological in addition to being physical. For example, allowing a child to witness an act of domestic violence may be considered a form of child abuse, even though the child suffered no actual physical harm.
Physical abuse is defined as willfully inflicting any cruel or inhuman bodily punishment or injury upon a child resulting in a traumatic condition. Examples of physical abuse include:
- Pushing; and
- Pulling hair.
Generally, spanking a child is permissible if it is age appropriate and not excessive nor causes injury. Additionally, altercations between minors are not considered abuse for the purposes of mandatory reporting.
Exceptions are also permitted for the use of reasonable force by a peace officer or school employee during the course of his or her duties to prevent a minor from harming himself or another person.
Child neglect must also be reported under California mandatory reporting laws. California law defines neglect as “the negligent treatment or the maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for the child's welfare under circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child's health or welfare.”
Some types of neglect include failure to provide a child adequate:
- Medical treatment; and/or
California laws regarding child abuse and abuse neglect apply broadly to parents, to those who care for or have custody over children and, in many instances, to any other person.
Punishment for Failure to Report Child Abuse or Neglect (PC 11166)
If you are considered a mandatory reporter and you fail to report actual or suspected child abuse or neglect, or you impede the making of a mandatory report, you can be charged with a misdemeanor under Penal Code Section 11166. If you are convicted, you face up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of $1,000, or both.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
If you or a family member is facing allegations of failing to fulfill your duty as a mandatory reporter, you need to speak to one of our experienced attorneys at Wallin & Klarich today. Our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 40 years of experience defending our clients involved in child abuse and neglect cases.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, our attorneys at Wallin & Klarich will help you protect your rights and your good reputation. We will help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free telephone consultation. We will get through this together.
1. [San Jose Mercury News: “San Jose: Principal convicted of failing to report suspected child abuse by teacher;” http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_21934461/san-jose-principal-convicted-failing-report-child-abuse]↩
3. [San Jose Mercury News: “San Jose: Teacher convicted of molesting five students;” http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_23778488/san-jose-teacher-convicted-molesting-five-students]↩