I do not report to know any of the facts surrounding the matters that are currently pending in Pennsylvania relating to members of Penn State’s athletics staff. Additionally, I have no knowledge of the investigation that was or was not conducted by the officials of Penn State. However, the topic of sexual misconduct sends shockwaves to every college campus and must be taken very seriously. Each college campus plays host to thousands of children each year including camps, campus events, and athletic contests. Every year, institutions host camps where outside coaches are brought in to teach and educate young people. Thus, athletic administrators may not personally know the coaches that are teaching young people in university facilities although background checks are routinely performed.
Most, if not all, states have legislation that requires a “report” to be made of matters that may adversely affect a child’s physical or mental health or welfare as a result of abuse of neglect. Of course, I am most keenly aware of Texas’ statute on the topic, Texas Family Code § 261.101, and will discuss the same. Under Texas law, a professional who has “cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected or may be abused or neglect, or that a child is a victim of an (sexual) offense” must make a report not later than the 48th hour after the professional first suspects that the child has been abused, neglected, or a victim of a sexual offense. If such a report is not made, the professional can face criminal penalties. Under Texas law, the duty to make a report cannot be delegated to another.
How is a report made? In Texas, a report can be made in a number of ways including a report to local authorities or calling the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services hotline. Once the report is made, the professional has met his/her obligation under the statute and is immune from liability from the accused, unless the report is made maliciously or with knowledge of its falsity. Thus, a professional has a duty to report anything that would give “cause to believe” that abuse or neglect has occurred. In practice, if information of abuse or neglect is reported to an administrator on a college campus, there is a duty to make a report in accordance with state law.