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Strengthen child abuse reporting law advocate says

Not enough is being done to protect children from physical and sexual abuse. This coming out of child abuse task force based at the state capitol. A leading national expert said Tuesday more education for adults on the signs of abuse is needed.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Not enough is being done to protect children from physical and sexual abuse. This coming out of child abuse task force based at the state capitol. A leading national expert said Tuesday more education for adults on the signs of abuse is needed.

Still six months from the next legislative session, lawmakers on Tuesday getting a head start on how to improve Arkansas' mandated reporting law.

Stephanie Smith with the Bentonville office of the National Child Protection Center says the Jerry Sandusky scandal is the most high profile case of adults failing to report abuse.

"We have to trust what the kids tell us, make the report to the hotline and let the professionals take it from there," Smith says.

She says the number one problem is that mandated reporters, be it teachers, nurses or social workers don’t understand what they're required to do.

Smith says training needs to be more than just reciting what the law is, but also provide specific instruction on how to identify suspected abuse.

"They don't really understand at what point do I have enough information to make a report,” Smith says. “If a child tells you that someone is doing something to them, you have enough information to report. That's what it takes."

Three Arkadelphia elementary employees face discipline on accusations they failed to report an incident between students in a school bathroom earlier this year. The Clark County prosecutor is currently reviewing the incident to determine if it warrants any charges.

And an attorney representing a Conway family says school employees didn't report an incident involving students last year. The family filed a civil suit seeking unspecified monetary damages. The district denies all claims.

Still, Smith telling legislators today reporting suspected abuse should be common sense, but often it's just the opposite. She says the response is all too common.

"Has the child misunderstood, am I not understanding what the child is saying, because surely this person wouldn't do that? And it's getting yourself over that hurdle of recognizing that you may in fact know someone who is abusing a child," she says.

And not reporting is a crime.
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