“Guys, I’m A Mandated Reporter!”: Mandated Reporting In CKSD

Mandated reporting in CKSD works to ensure the wellbeing of students in both protective and preventive measures.


Washington DSHS

Adults required by law to report instances of child abuse or neglect.

by Rosalie Johnson, Reporter, Assistant Editor

Mandated reporting is often associated with student misbehavior or misconduct frequently seen around schools, such as vaping, drug use, harassment, or skipping class. While this holds true, mandated reporting applies and is most often used for the protection and welfare of students against any form of abuse.

According to the Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families, mandated reporters are adults who are legally required to report any concern of a child who is suspected to be a victim of abuse or neglect. 

The form mandated reporters fill out in concerns of child abuse or neglect. (3421P Form)

Our primary duty is the safety and care of children,” said CKHS Principal Craig Johnson. “The procedures put forth by the state and school district are in place to provide consistent reporting to meet that obligation.”

According to Johnson, as the principal, he is “informed of required reports made by [the] building staff” and is “part of the team that keeps reporting records in the district.”

Jeanne Beckon, CKSD’s Director of Human Resources, explained that all school faculty members must fulfill their duties as a mandated reporter to “keep their teaching license,” specifically in regards to child abuse and neglect. 

A form made available to all school staff under Policy 3421F allows for staff members to report any concern for child abuse or neglect as well as inform the school’s principal or contact Child Protective Services (CPS).

“If you see something physical [of concern] or if you hear students say something about their safety at home…we report it,” Beckon emphasized. “What we communicate to staff is that it’s not our job to investigate something like that, it’s our job to report. When we hear something, we then report it to CPS or to law enforcement, and it’s their job to look into it…if we believe the child’s safety is at risk, we’re going to let someone who is trained in these investigations do their job.”

This form is to be completed as soon as possible within 48 hours of witnessing or hearing the concern, but according to Beckon and the policy, “if there’s an immediate concern, you go straight to law enforcement” and call 911.

Despite clear-cut situations in which concerns may seem obvious to bring forward as a staff member, there are some instances where the action of submitting a report may seem unclear to a staff member: occurrences that would typically go against social acceptability – such as attending an event where underage drinking was prevalent – yet are uncertain of causing imminent danger for a student following the event.

Beckon finds that oftentimes, there is subjective and personal judgment that takes place in these ambiguous situations. 

“We know that [going to a party] happens, so the level of care and concern of what the student experienced comes first,” she explained. 

According to Beckon, to reach a conclusion, teachers might ask themselves, “How often does this happen? What’s the context? Were they feeling unsafe? Was there excessive [misbehavior]? What do I know about the student? Would I take this to a counselor?”

“I think you can imagine on a daily basis what staff takes in from students – what they see, what they hear, what they overhear, and that judgment about ‘do I take everything I hear?’ or where is that line of ‘who do I take it to?’” said Beckon. “Our staff has a lot of conversations…they help each other in those gray areas. There’s clearly a line way up here that calls for immediate reporting, and there’s clearly a line down here that is ‘I’m not going to do anything with that because that was clearly of no substance.’ It’s that gray part in the middle, and I think that staff falls on the side of sharing it with someone just to be sure…Through that, they feel better knowing they didn’t just dismiss it when it shouldn’t have been.”

However, Beckon reinforced that there are also “other levels of reporting that are perhaps not as egregious as neglect and child abuse, but…staff are obligated to bring forward if they see or hear in the building.”

What school faculty may witness, overhear, or have been informed directly of that they are required to bring forth includes harassment against any protected classes perpetrated by students themselves.

One of two CKHS Dean of Students, Katherine Devnich, outlined the process of accountability for those who perpetrate harassment in accordance with Board Policy.

“If a classroom teacher hears somebody using a slur, that is harassment. The teacher should lean in and say ‘we don’t use language like that’ to make sure that everyone is aware that everyone is welcome here at CKHS,” she explained. “Then it is their duty to report this harassment, because the Board Policy has different levels of accountability…Teachers have access to something called SWIS, which is where we put all of our referrals. If you hear harassment, that is where you would put your referrals.”

Though school staff members are legally and contractually required to fulfill mandated reporting requirements to protect students and retain their teaching license, students are also able to come forward and report issues of abuse, harassment, or any other situation they have felt unsafe or uncomfortable in.

According to Beckon, all processes of investigation following report submissions are “situationally driven,” but there needs to always be “an investigation when someone comes forward to report something.”

These processes include a review or summary of the situation; when someone comes forward when they feel uncomfortable or unsafe, they provide the details – “the who, what, when, and where.” The person the report is submitted to now reaches out to the perpetrator and any other people the reporter sees as involved in the situation, so “to the best of our ability, we know the full context of what is going on.”

According to Beckon, “typically all of the forms around child endangerment when it’s not immediate and emergent go to the Office of Teaching and Learning for part of their documentation and review. Let’s take bullying for example: we have a bullying report form that the administration fills out. Those forms are filled out at the school level but are also submitted to the Office of Teaching and Learning for review.”

What happens after the form is submitted “depends on the situation,” explained Beckon. “When [The Office of Teaching and Learning] gets it, it’s simply a review to ensure that all of the steps were followed around the issue. There’s typically an action plan or a safety plan put into place.”

In an effort to ensure the wellbeing of the student at school, the executive directors will ensure the form has been completed to review the incident. From there, the only action taken is contacting the school’s administration if a portion of the form was left blank.

In these situations, safety plans for the student are often discussed or enacted within the school itself. 

These safety plans are always created with the student and “come about with the issue that is being reported,” Beckon clarified. “It would depend on what the student’s needs are and when the report is created.”

Safety plans work to ensure the comfort and safety of the vulnerable student. Reactions or provisions through these safety plans vary based on the needs of each child. 

To report these issues, students can turn to any trusted adult in their building.

“I want every kid who walks through the door to have at least one trusted adult,” said Devnich. “Any adult will do, it doesn’t just have to be a teacher – we have amazing counselors, lunch ladies, library clerks who are so welcoming and kind.”

With this support and aid during adversity or trauma, students can access avenues towards reconciliation, healing, and prevention of potential future hardship.

“Every staff member knows that they have a responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of the students,” Beckon established. “I don’t think that’s a question in anybody’s mind. That’s very well-known. The certificated staff members in the classroom know that their license is at risk if they fail to report.”

Inaction on reporting child endangerment risks one’s teaching license and can also be grounds for an official investigation.

“From the district’s perspective, our superintendent has a responsibility where if she knows she has a staff member that has violated the mandatory reporting component, she is obligated to report that to the Office of Professional Practices and OSPI and then they do an investigation [into that employee],” said Beckon.

This, alongside protecting and improving welfare and wellbeing of CKSD students, motivates staff to take whatever action possible when concerning situations within student life arise. This action may include completing and submitting a report, and it may also include contacting CPS or law enforcement.

Though these actions may be necessary, they are often stressful, saddening, or frightening to complete.

“We know, when we call CPS, the impact that could have on a family,” said Beckon. “Reminder: we don’t investigate, we report.”

As a former elementary school principal, Beckon is familiar with the action and process of contacting CPS alongside teachers who initially submitted the report due to its difficult and heavy nature.

“When we would have to make those calls, individual teachers would prefer to sit with a counselor or principal and call together so that you have two people in the room when you’re talking to CPS or law enforcement and you’re not isolated by yourself,” she recalled.

Devnich is also no stranger to aiding or supporting students through traumatic events.

“In this time working with kids, I’ve seen and heard things that I’ve never wanted to see or hear,” she said. “Things that are tragic. I’ve had kids openly weeping having to make that phone call to their parents or guardian and holding their hand and walking them through it.”

In the face of these potential consequences of coming forward and submitting a report, Beckon and Devnich acknowledge the fear or worry weighing on students’ minds when they are considering informing an adult.

“You want to share this, whatever it is, then it must be important enough that you want us to do something to help you,” Beckon emphasizes to students dealing with adversity. “What that help looks like we can talk about, but it must be something big and we want to help. So what can we do?”

Devnich has worked through adversity alongside the students experiencing it: “It’s been about abuse and neglect, alcohol and drugs and understanding the impact, and…de-escalation tactics,” she said. “I think that the school district is aware of the needs and that we are aware of the needs that students have to be safe. It’s a big system, and it just takes time.”

Devnich highlighted the “open-door” policy that allows for all students to reach out and receive the help they need.

“We are always here,” she said. “Working through trauma is different for every kid. You can always come in and sit down and talk. I really try to keep that open door policy – it’s a safe space here.”