School employees required to report signs of abuse

Charlotte Young, assistant superintendent with the Meridian Public School District.

According to Mississippi law, teachers are required to report signs of abuse to children under their watch. 

School officals in the Lauderdale County and Meridian districts said they work with law enforcement and the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services when abuse is suspected.

At Southeast Lauderdale Middle School, counselor Robbie Cooper said the school has measures in place that help teachers spot child abuse and neglect, including annual training for teachers provided by CPS.

Teachers are trained to look for marks or bruises on a child, signs of malnourishment and personal hygiene, Cooper said.

Some students report problems to teachers, herself or community members, Cooper said.

“Most of the time it comes from a child reporting," Cooper said. "It comes from children feeling close to their teachers or counselors.”

The district sends the reports to police and CPS, which then manages the case, Cooper said.

Privacy issues prevent the school from knowing the details of the agency's communication with children and their families.

Cooper said when someone does call the school to report neglect or abuse, they direct the caller to a website where they can fill out an anonymous form.

If the child is no longer attending the school or is not on the school's roster, the school will try to determine if the child has moved out of the district. When that's the case, it makes it more difficult for the school to track the child, she said.

Lauderdale County schools also offer support to children suffering trauma through Weems Community Mental Health Center in Meridian, Cooper said.

“We are concerned with the overall well being and growth of the child, then the science and math,” Cooper said.

Typical signs of abuse and neglect might include uncleanliness, a child repeatedly wearing the same clothes, behavioral changes and absence from school, according to Charlotte Young, assistant superintendent with the Meridian Public School District.  

Based on how a child is behaving, a counselor will intervene, Young said. 

Besides physical abuse, Young said in her 25 years as an educator, she has also seen psychological abuse and drug use by parents.

“I see kids abused with drugs," Young said. "They have to fend for themselves.”

Young said the worst case she has reported was an 8-year-old who was locked in a closet.

Lea Anne Brandon, director of communications for CPS, said a social worker works with children who may be neglected or abused and provides training to teachers.

Brandon said CPS meets with teachers once a year to provide them the skills needed in spotting abuse and neglect.

When a problem is reported, a CPS social worker meets with the child outside the home, Brandon said.

Social workers are not able to meet with a child daily, but can make two visits a week if abuse is suspected, Brandon said.

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