SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Parents in Salem are concerned about a recent reminder to the Salem-Keizer School District that employees should be reporting students’ sexual activity.
Parents started a petition after an recent staff training that clarified questions about sexual conduct between teenage students and mandatory reporting.
All school employees are mandatory reporters for abuse, including sexual abuse. State law says they are required to contact the Department of Human Services if they have “reasonable cause that a child with whom the employee comes in contact has suffered abuse by another school employee or by a student….”
The district points to another existing state law that says people under 18 are “considered incapable of consenting to a sexual act,” therefore sexual contact between students under 18 would be considered abuse.
“Simply reporting to the sate doesn’t mean police are going to be knocking on the door of students,” district spokeswoman Lillian Govus said. “What it does allow for is an abundance of caution in ensuring that our children are safe.”
The staff training outlined scenarios that should be reported, including if a teen student tells a teacher she is having sex with her boyfriend and wants to talk about birth control options, a teen telling a teacher his girlfriend is pregnant or overhearing a teen talk about a rumor that someone “hooked up.”
The petition urges the superintendent to drop the reporting, arguing teens will no longer be able to confide in a trusted teacher or even their parent if the parent is an employee of the district.
“The problem with the guidance from Salem-Keizer is that is throws confusion into the mix,” Oregon Education Association President C. John Larson said. “We want to make sure our students are protected, they need to be safe and they need to feel safe but they also need to feel like they can have conversations with their parents or with educators in situations where it may not be a mandatory reporting situation.”
According to the mandatory reporting rules, employees who fail to report are violating the law and could be sued or otherwise punished.
“It is not convenient for our educators to report these in all instances and it’s not something that the students desire,” Govus said. “But for our employees to remain compliant with the law as it is written we must report and that goes for any school district employee must report any sexual activity between minors.”