STATE OF CONNECTICUT

NEWS RELEASE
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal Child Advocate Jeanne Milstein
________________________________________________________________________ THURSDAY, JULY 8, 2010

ATTORNEY GENERAL, CHILD ADVOCATE INVESTIGATION REVEALS FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY ADDRESS REPORTS OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT BY SCHOOL EMPLOYEES
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and Child Advocate Jeanne Milstein issued an investigative report today recommending significant reform of policies for preventing, investigating and responding to alleged student abuse by school employees. Blumenthal and Milstein said Connecticut’s current laws, policies and practices fail to prevent the hiring of individuals accused of misconduct or promptly remove school employees when misconduct is established. The report follows a lengthy investigation into how DCF and Connecticut school systems respond to allegations of school employees abusing and neglecting students. The report details cases in five school districts in Connecticut. Blumenthal and Milstein recommend sweeping changes in laws, regulations and policies involving the Department of Children and Families (DCF), the State Department of Education (SDE) and school districts. Such reforms include stronger employee and certification screening processes and meaningful mandated reporter training. “Our investigation has revealed an abyss -- where abuse allegations and information go unreported or uninvestigated,” Blumenthal said. “We have found a maze of miscommunication and misinformation, where mandated reporters fail to properly communicate abuse allegations, local and state authorities fail to share abuse information or adequately screen new hires, and public officials fail to set clear, explicit polices and training. “There must be profound sweeping change in our statewide system for reporting and responding to abuse allegations. Although most teachers and other school employees are dedicated hardworking professionals, a very few may tragically violate their trust and cause harm to the children they are supposed to be helping. We are calling for vast reforms in state laws and policies -- providing new screening procedures for school employee hiring and certification, and an ______________________________________________________________________________
MEDIA CONTACTS Attorney General’s Office Tara Downes 860-808-5324 Office of the child advocate 860-566-2106

immediate, clear communication path when allegations and information about abuse emerge. Our children need and deserve a swift effective response to protect against predators. “Our report illustrates specific cases of alleged abuse or neglect in order to demonstrate systematic statewide failure.” Milstein said, “This investigation revealed a number of very serious holes in our safety net for protecting children from abuse and neglect. We must do everything in our power to ensure our children are safe in their schools. The DCF, the SDE and all Connecticut school districts must work together to implement the necessary practice, policy and legislative reforms.” The joint investigation reviewed the quality of investigations of allegations that school employees abused or neglected children, and responses by local school districts, DCF and the SDE. The investigation explored screening processes for certification of administrators, teachers and coaches, and hiring school employees; the state’s mandated reporting laws; and efforts to educate mandated reporters about their responsibilities under the law. The report’s findings include:   DCF maintains a Child Abuse & Neglect Registry identifying individuals with substantiated reports of abuse or neglect of a child and who the DCF Commissioner deems a risk to the health, safety or well-being of children. The SDE does not routinely check the DCF Child Abuse & Neglect Registry in certification and employment decisions. Very few school districts require employees to undergo a DCF background check prior to hiring. State law should require that the SDE check the registry before issuing certifications. School districts do not have access to the DCF Abuse & Neglect Registry unless they obtain waivers from prospective employees. State law should authorize registry access to local districts for employment decisions. Mandated reporters are an integral part of the safety net for children, and must never fear retaliation for fulfilling their legal obligations. School districts must create an atmosphere where mandated reporters will be supported. School districts should be required to review and update mandated reporting policies annually. State law should also be amended to make all school employees, and any individual who performs any service under a contract with a school district, mandated reporters. State law should require that DCF provide mandated reporter training to all new school employees and contractors on an annual basis. School districts should also be required to distribute accurate information annually to all staff and to provide and document refresher training. Mandated reporters sometimes fail to report to DCF their suspicions that school employees have neglected or abused a child. Instead, some simply inform their supervisors of their suspicions and the matter may never be

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MEDIA CONTACTS Attorney General’s Office Tara Downes 860-808-5324 Office of the child advocate 860-566-2106

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reported to DCF or there is a significant reporting delay. School districts should be required to document all allegations of abuse or neglect. DCF should create a computerized system to track failures or delays in mandated reporting, and develop policies for investigating such failures. State law should provide broader remedies to ensure compliance with mandated reporting laws. Despite legal requirements, SDE is rarely notified of mandated reports concerning certified educators. DCF does not notify SDE directly of allegations of abuse or neglect, but instead is required to notify local school authorities. Local school authorities do not always notify the SDE of the reports made to them by DCF. State law should require DCF to notify the SDE directly of such allegations. DCF investigations are sometimes hindered by delays or refusals by school districts to promptly share relevant information. State law should require that school districts cooperate with DCF immediately. School districts often conduct their own investigation before contacting DCF or police, hindering trained investigators. Schools should immediately report allegations through the DCF Hotline and defer to the priority of the DCF/law enforcement investigation over their own internal investigations. DCF should conduct regular and random quality assurance reviews of schoolrelated investigations by DCF. School districts do not always adequately hold educators accountable for inappropriate conduct. School districts should conduct their own investigation of misconduct allegations to determine whether disciplinary action is warranted, including revocation of certification through the SDE. The SDE rarely takes action to revoke educators’ certificates following a substantiation of abuse or neglect unless there is first a request made by a school district or other individual. The SDE should initiate certification revocation proceedings where warranted regardless of whether or not a school district requests such revocation.

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______________________________________________________________________________
MEDIA CONTACTS Attorney General’s Office Tara Downes 860-808-5324 Office of the child advocate 860-566-2106