For Penn State employees, new training is required for reporting suspected child abuse.
Through a developing professional training program, Penn State employees who will be working with children will be trained on how to recognize and properly report child abuse, University Spokeswoman Lisa Powers wrote in an email.
There are two phases of the training, with the first part beginning April 18, which is required for all “mandatory reporters” or those who come into direct contact with children.
The first part will be “a face-to-face” format in an effort to meet immediate needs for summer programs on-campus, Powers wrote. The second phase will be an online interactive training, which will be launched in the fall.
These training programs stem from Louis Freeh’s five preliminary recommendations. Freeh, a former FBI director and federal judge, is leading the university's independent internal investigation, although Powers wrote that Penn State began a comprehensive review of its policies before the recommendations were made.
“When we partnered with [Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape] in December, discussions began in earnest for training that could apply to all employees as a way to educate Penn Staters about child abuse and to reinforce the need to identify and report abuse,” Powers wrote.
To put the training in place, Workplace Learning and Performance in the Office of Human Resources at Penn State has been working with a team comprised of several organizations.
The organizations involved are PCAR, WPSU Learning & Media Design Team, Penn State University Police, Student Affairs, the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, faculty experts and professionals throughout the community.
Through PCAR’s partnership with Penn State, PCAR has helped create guidelines that Penn State will require employees to follow when reporting suspected child abuse, Kristen Houser, vice president of communications and development for PCAR, said.
Currently, training will be provided to those who are considered “mandated reporters” by Pennsylvania law. In the future, Penn State will have “permissive” reporters — Penn State employees who are not mandated by law to report abuse — trained on the ways to recognize and report suspected child abuse through the online training in the fall, Houser said.
“We find that people in general feel scared to make a report,” Houser said. “That somehow reporting a suspicion turns into accusing somebody of sexual abuse or accusing someone of child abuse.”
Houser said PCAR will be training employees on the difference between “unfounded” reports and “false” reports, so that employees understand that reporting suspected abuse doesn’t always result in a person being charged with a crime. Houser defined “unfounded” reports as a report that doesn’t include enough verified information for authorities to charge a person, while a “false” report oftentimes includes made-up information.
Since summertime is quickly approaching, Mary Faulkner, director of counseling and advocacy services for the CCWRC, said the university’s goal was to make sure there was increased information and training for employees due to the influx of children and minors who will be on campus at programs and day care centers.
The training will be provided for those identified as “mandated reporters” of abuse, Faulkner said. Mandated reporters are those required to report suspected abuse, such as teachers or nurses, Faulkner said.
Part of the training will include ways employers can recognize signs of abuse, even when there may not be physical signs, such as bruising, Faulkner said.
Some signs that a child may be abused include a child engaging in sexual behavior at an inappropriate age, Faulkner said. Other signs of abuse can be that children may appear withdrawn from activities they had previous interest or enjoyment in, she said.
Powers wrote that there are also new disciplinary actions against employees who do not follow the new procedures.
According to university policy AD39 — a policy that provides appropriate supervision of minors who are involved in university-sponsored programs — employees who do not follow university regulations may be removed from the program for “non-compliance” of rules.