OKLAHOMA CITY – The Governor signed legislation Thursday modifying child abuse reporting requirements. House Bill 2259, by Sen. Ron Sharp and Rep. Dell Kerbs, requires individuals, especially educators, to report suspected child abuse or neglect of minors immediately to the DHS Child Abuse Hotline and those 18 years or older to law enforcement.
“The reason we authored this bill was because there were too many cases of individuals waiting weeks to report suspected abuse and neglect,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “We want there to be a sense of urgency. As adults, especially educators, we have a moral and legal responsibility to protect those without a voice. Waiting days or weeks to file a report can be detrimental or even deadly for these kids.”
Current law advises people to report suspected abuse and neglect “promptly”, which is a term that can be interpreted many ways by individuals. The new law, which goes into effect November 1, requires that reports be made “immediately”.
“As a former educator, I’m glad that the bill specifically requires teachers to report suspected abuse and neglect immediately as they spend the most time with these kids and can recognize changes in behavior or see evidence of abuse,” said Sharp. “For most kids, schools are safe zones and they trust their teachers and often will open up about violence in their home. Hopefully, this change will help better protect Oklahoma’s children.”
HB 2259 was requested by the Department of Human Services and the Department of Education. Under Oklahoma statutes, “teachers” include administrators, counselors and classroom instructors.
The DHS hotline is 1-800-522-3511