Child Abuse Reporting in Texas
What are the definitions of abuse?
- Abuse can be mental, emotional, physical or sexual.
People may be guilty of abuse if they personally inflict the abuse, or
if they cause or permit a child to be in a situation that results in the
- A mental or emotional injury is one that "results
in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth,
development or psychological functioning."
- A physical injury is one that results in substantial
harm or the genuine threat of substantial harm to the child.
- Sexual abuse is any sexual conduct that is harmful to a
child’s mental, emotional or physical welfare.
- Prohibited conduct includes allowing a child to be
depicted in obscene or pornographic material.
- The failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent
another person from committing physical or sexual abuse also constitutes
If I suspect child abuse, what do I do?
Make a report to the proper authorities.
Make that report within 48 hours of the time you first
suspect that the child has been or may be abused or neglected.
Who exactly is a "proper authority"?
Any local or state law enforcement agency
The Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory
Services (TDPRS), if the suspected abuse involves a person responsible
for the care, custody or welfare of a child (such as a child’s parent
or guardian, personnel at a residential facility or school personnel).
You can make a report to the TDPRS by calling the Child Abuse Hotline at
(800) 252-5400, a service of the TDPRS.
The state agency that operates, licenses, certifies or
registers the facility in which the alleged abuse or neglect occurred
Is another school district employee a "proper
No. Even if a school
policy requires that educators report suspected child abuse to a
designated person within the school district, you still must make a
report to one of the previously listed authorities. Although it is important to follow school policy, state law
still requires that you make the report directly to the proper authorities and prohibits policies that require a
report to school personnel first.
What if I am not sure that abuse is or may be occurring?
The child abuse reporting law requires you to make a
report if you have any reason to believe that abuse might have
occurred. Therefore, you must make a report even if you have no
way of confirming your suspicions.
Talk with a trained professional at the Child Abuse
Hotline at (800) 252-5400 if you observe behavior in a child that gives
you cause for concern but would like more information about whether the
behavior is indicative of abuse or neglect.
What if my suspicions are wrong?
You are immune from civil or criminal liability for any
report of child abuse as long as the report is made in good faith.
A person who reports his or her own conduct, or who acts
in bad faith or with malice in reporting alleged abuse, is not immune
from civil or criminal liability.
Is my report confidential?
A report of suspected abuse or neglect is confidential,
and it is not subject to public release under the Open Records Act.
The identity of the person making a report as well as
information contained in the report may be disclosed only for purposes
consistent with the investigation of the alleged child abuse and in
accordance with the requirements of the Family Code.
What happens if I suspect child abuse but I don’t make a
An educator who fails to make a required child abuse
report may be subject to criminal prosecution or civil liability.
Failure to report is a class-B misdemeanor offense. A
class-B misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and/or
imprisonment for up to 180 days.
Failure to report could subject you to considerable
monetary liability in a civil rights lawsuit.
Failure to report could result in sanctions to your
professional certificate, if you have one.
What if someone makes a false report about me?
Any person who knowingly or intentionally makes a false
report commits a class-A misdemeanor. A class-A misdemeanor is
punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and/or imprisonment for up to one
What is the school district’s responsibility in handling
Section 38.004 of the Texas Education Code requires the
Texas Education Agency (TEA) to develop a policy governing child abuse
reports and requires each school district to adopt the policy.
Each school district must provide child abuse
anti-victimization programs in elementary and secondary schools.
If the alleged abuse occurs in a public school, the TDPRS will investigate the allegation and will send a report of their
investigation to TEA and to the local school board for appropriate
The child made me promise not to tell anyone. What do I do
Many students report child abuse to teachers,
administrators, para-educators and, particularly, counselors, with the
expectation that the information will remain in confidence. Many
educators are worried about betraying a student’s trust by making an
official report. In such cases, you may want to explain to the student
that you are required by law to make the report and that you may suffer
criminal penalties if you do not.
If a child chooses you as a confidante, it is important
to listen carefully and elicit as much information as you can in your
conversation. If you are the first person a child has told about sexual
abuse, your testimony could become very important in possible future
legal proceedings. The very first person a child tells about sexual
abuse is called an "outcry witness," and all information given
to you by the child is admissible evidence.
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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