The Criminal Liability For Failing To Report Juvenile Sexual Abuse

Two female school teachers were arrested for failing to report video footage of a child performing sexual acts on campus. They were charged with possession of child pornography and failure to report child abuse.

According to police, the child's mother called the school to report that her daughter was recorded "performing oral sex" and that the footage was uploaded to Instagram. The mother told detectives that the school had contacted her, but only to "tell her that her daughter had been in the school restroom with four male students."

The 13-year-old girl wrote about the incident for her mother. She admitted that she was going to the boys' restroom to meet one boy. However, she was shocked to see other boys there. She tried to escape, but one of the boys pulled her into the restroom and into a stall. Another boy blocked the door. One boy told her that she could not leave until she had performed oral sex on all of them.

The girl said she "succumbed to peer pressure" and said she noticed one of the boys recording the incident. She also heard the voice of one of the accused teachers before she managed to escape.

When the mother went to the school the following day, "no one at the school could provide accurate information." She did learn that a male teacher (who was not identified), caught the boys involved watching the video inside the restroom. He confiscated the phone to report the incident.

One of the accused teachers spoke with the girl's mother and admitted to her that she watched the video before emailing it to herself and texted it to the other teacher. She said she deleted the video from the student's phone before giving it back to the student. According to the mother, however, there are "approximately three to four videos of the incident."

Two detectives said they met with the teachers and watched the video on the teachers' phone. One of the detectives told the police the names of the four boys who were in the bathroom at the time of the incident, but said only three were involved in the acts. According to police reports, the accused teachers failed to report the incident to the police or to the Department of Children and Family Services immediately.

The teachers' lawyer explained that her clients "were attempting to prevent a child from leaving the school with an explicit video." She also stressed that her clients "wanted to preserve the footage 'just in case.'" However, the police consider the deletion and transfer of the footage to be obstruction of justice and the facts that underlie the child pornography charges. Wilborn P. Nobles III, "Treme charter school leaders accused of failing to report video showing student sex acts," http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2017/10/treme_charter_school_child_abu.html (Oct. 04, 2017).


Commentary and Checklist

Teachers are mandated by law to immediately report to the police or to the local child protection agency any reasonably suspected child sexual abuse.

In this case, there was no doubt, as shown by the video, that child sexual abuse had occurred. All forms of child sexual abuse need to be reported even if it is done by other students.

Estimates are that juveniles commit 23 percent of reported sexual assaults against children. Juveniles who commit sex offenses against other children are more likely than adult sex offenders to offend in groups and to offend at school. The majority of juvenile sex offenders (93 percent) are male and between the ages of 12 and 14. Children cannot legally consent to sex acts or the recording of them, by any means.

What should mandatory reporters do when they have reasonable suspicions of child sexual abuse?

  • Call the police or your local child protection agency.
  • Document your concerns.
  • Your duty to report is not delegable. You must report it.
  • Don't second guess yourself. You do not have to be correct. The investigators will determine if a crime was committed.
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