Legal Q&A
Who has to report abusive situations?

Q: A student recently hinted to me that he is in an abusive situation at home. If I call ATPE for assistance, who has to do the actual reporting to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services?

A. Unfortunately, the national news has once again been inundated with stories about the alleged abuse of minors by an adult. In the recent Penn State case, there has been a major focus on several people who knew of suspected abuse but failed to properly report it to the authorities.

Although most people agree that there is a moral obligation not to ignore suspected child abuse, licensed educators also have a legal obligation to report suspected abuse. Educators can be subject to both criminal penalties and loss of their certification if they fail to do so.

Learn more about what abuse is and how to report it at The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has also developed a free online training program targeted specifically to educators. This program can be found at

In addition to licensed educators, any professional holding a state-granted license is legally required to report suspected child abuse to the authorities. This obligation, which applies to certified teachers and administrators, also applies to licensed attorneys. This requirement is a specific exception to the attorney-client privilege that normally prohibits an attorney from sharing information that might be damaging to a client. ATPE members should be aware that if an ATPE attorney learns of facts from a client that produce reasonable suspicion that child abuse has occurred, the attorney is also legally required to report the suspicions to the proper authorities.

The legal information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly and readers should consult directly with an attorney. Eligible ATPE members should contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department using our online system, MLSIS.

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Join ATPE  |  January 2012  |  © 2012 ATPE

Essentials contains legislative advertising contracted for by Doug Rogers, Executive Director, Association of Texas Professional Educators, 305 E. Huntland Dr., Suite 300, Austin, TX 78752-3792, representing ATPE.

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