Salem-Keizer Staff Undergo Updated Mandatory Reporting Training
BY LIZZY PALMQUIST AND MACKENZIE ROLF
Salem Keizer school district staff recently went through updated training on their requirements as mandatory reporters. While these laws are not new, a question was raised as to the requirements of a mandatory reporter in certain situations, so further clarification and updated training requirements. As mandatory reporters, Salem-Keizer School district must report any sexual activity between minors [unmarried people under the age of 18], whether they believe it was consensual or not. Failure to file a report may result in a Class A violation and fine, as well as the possibility of losing their teaching license.
“Oregon law currently defines a child as an unmarried person under 18 years of age. “Abuse” includes (among other situations) non-consensual sexual contact. Any person is considered incapable of consenting to a sexual act if that person is under 18 years of age. There is no age defense in these reporting circumstances,” Walt Beglau, Marion County District Attorney said.
Mandatory reporting does not only apply to their students, but also their own children.
Many students and parents are uncomfortable with these new enforcements. From the perspective of students, many feel that these laws are a violation of their privacy and prevent them from feeling free to seek help or counsel when necessary. Some parents have also expressed concern over the new laws because it discourages their children from talking about certain topics with them, especially those who work for the district.
“I feel like I’m not allowed to discuss anything with her if anything were to happen, because if I did, she would have to report me to DHS. If she doesn’t report me, she could potentially lose her job,” said Kendra Evans ‘18.
Salem-Keizer School District Director of Community Relations and Communications, Lillian Govus, feels that students can and should feel comfortable with talking to both their parents and teachers, even if the topic could be filed with DHS.
“Just because there’s a report filed does not mean you can’t talk to [teachers]. It may be reported, but the DA [District Attorney] is not going to prosecute a positive relationship. They have no interest in that,” said Govis. “You can still talk to your parents, you can still talk to your teachers, you can still continue along that path.”
Govis went on to say that the mandatory reporting laws should not stifle, but encourage communication between teachers and students. Students should still feel free to talk to their teachers, regardless of the possibility of a report being filed.
“It helps you know that you are safe and protected because adults care and are looking out for you,” Govus said.
For those who still wish to take action against mandatory reporting, it is best to go directly to the state, not the school board. Because the laws are put in place by the Oregon state and not the school district, sending complaints to the Salem-Keizer district will not make any difference.
“We can not advise our employees to do anything other follow the law, and the only way we can advise them to do anything different is if the law changes. Your peers who went to the capital to protest protested at the correct place,” Govus said.
A petition was started by Kimberly Schott that will be sent towards to Paul Kyllo, a School Board Chairman, and has received 4025 signatures as of Nov. 6. The petition aims to draw attention to the recent training in order to communicate to students and parents the recent changes.
Salem-Keizer wrote about the clarification in their newsletter, as well as in an email to parents.