“Any teacher’s failure to report suspected child abuse is a crime. But when this teacher works with special-needs children who often struggle to communicate, this failure to report — and thus failure to protect — is even more saddening, sickening and unacceptable. Locally, a special-needs teen at Western High School in Broward County wrote an essay in class detailing her rape. It was read by not one, not two, but three teachers who chose to do nothing and ignored the girl’s cry for help.
Because the events in this case transpired two years ago, the teachers — who remain employed by the Broward County School District — are being charged with first-degree misdemeanors. If this type of extreme negligence were to occur today, those who failed to report suspected abuse to the proper authorities would be punished with a third-degree felony. I am proud to be able to say that this is because of Lauren’s Kids’ work with the 2012 Florida Legislature on a law called ‘Protection of Vulnerable Persons,’ which has been called the toughest mandatory reporting law in the nation. When it comes to reporting suspected abuse, we must do whatever we can to protect our children — if there is any reason to suspect, we must report.
Unfortunately, this is the third case of school teachers’ and administrators’ failure to report in Florida that I’ve come across this year — the first at Manatee High School in Bradenton in which four administrators have been handed third-degree felony charges, and a second case that is materializing at Arnold High in Panama City Beach.
In the case of Western High…in our backyard…a child with special-needs used her voice to speak up, and her voice was squashed.”
– Lauren Book, M.S. Ed
- This year, the Lauren’s Kids foundation developed an abuse prevention curriculum for children with developmental disabilities through a partnership with the Florida Department of Children and Families.
- More than 90% of people, male and female, with a developmental disability will experience sexual abuse at some point in their lives (Source).
- Children with developmental disabilities are at twice the risk of physical and sexual abuse compared to children without special-needs (Source).