If you suspect child abuse and don’t report it, you could be prosecuted for a criminal offense.
Starting Jan. 1, 2013, every Central Oregon Community College employee, whether they wash towels in Mazama or tutor in the library, is going to be a mandatory reporter for child abuse.
This change comes after Oregon Legislature’s House Bill 4016, which states that all “public and private officials” have a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse.
“If you go down to Boyle to get your paycheck,” said Charla Andresen, Director of Contracts and Risk Management at COCC, “you’re a mandatory reporter.”
This law only excludes volunteers, contractors, and students who are not employees at the college.
This will bring an important new component to working at COCC, according to Andresen.
Any employee on COCC payroll who fails to report evidence of child abuse will be prosecuted, starting January 2013.
“A mandatory reporter who fails to report is subject to prosecution of a Class A criminal violation of the law,” said Andresen, “which carries a maximum penalty of $2,000.”
As of November 2012, there were 983 employees on payroll, according to Shelley Huckins, Payroll Director at COCC.
COCC is not the only entity to be affected by House Bill 4016. Establishments such as Bend Parks and Recreation are working towards training their whole staff for when the law takes effect.
“It’s our responsibility to get everyone trained,” said Theresa Albert, Human Resources Manager at Bend Parks and Recreation. “We’re making it mandatory even if they received the training in another job.”
But at a campus with nearly a thousand employees on payroll, is training every employee a possibility?
This is one of the college’s challenges, according to Eric Buckles director of Human Resources at COCC.
“There’s a mandatory reporter requirement, but there’s not mandatory training requirement,” said Buckles. “We can’t force them to take the training.”
COCC is working with Chemeketa Community College in Salem to provide future trainings, said Andresen, but right now the only education they can do is answering questions.
A student will still be held responsible for reporting, however, even if they don’t attend a training.
For Andresen, the major hurdle is meeting with departments to answer the many questions that have arisen as a result of the law being passed.
“People want to know ‘if I’m 17 and getting a paycheck, am I a mandatory reporter?’” said Andresen, “and ‘if I heard it third hand,’ and ‘can I be excluded due to religious beliefs?’”
Andresen stressed that the college is going “above and beyond the law” to provide information to employees.
As for reporting itself, Andresen believes that one should never be too cautious when considering reporting.
“If you feel it in your gut [that abuse is happening],” said Andresen, “do [report it].”