I am the grandmother of a 13 yr old girl. Recently, I received a text from her during school hours which said she was planning on cutting herself that night. I responded to her text saying I would have to talk to someone about her plans. I asked her if I could talk to her school therapist and she gave me permission. My daughter (her mom) had not reported this self abuse in the past so I got in touch with the school therapist and reported her plans. I have been told by my daughter I can no longer visit without her physical presence and that I went behind her back to report the abuse. I was also told it was inappropriate to respond to her text during school hours. I’d like some guidlines as to how to respond to the situation if it occurs again. Also, I’m a teacher. Am I a mandated reporter even with family members?

A. Generally speaking, teachers are mandated reporters in all circumstances, even if the alleged abuse involves family members. Of course, laws and regulations can vary state by state and country by country. There’s no moral justification for failing to report suspected child abuse and or neglect just because your family is involved. In fact, reports of child abuse and neglect commonly come from concerned family members. Reporters can choose to be anonymous.

I can’t provide you with specific guidelines about mandated reporting because these laws differ state to state. I would recommend contacting your states’ child abuse and neglect hotline and asking them any specific questions you may have. Call and identify yourself as a teacher. You can also review your state’s guidelines about mandated reporting. That information should be available on the Internet.

Finally, you should also consider consulting your supervisor (which in this case may be the school principal) who can address your specific questions. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle