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Protecting children from abuse with mandatory reporting

Protecting children from abuse
Posted at 6:33 PM, Jul 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-25 19:33:38-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — One in every ten children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, according to Project Harmony.

Just this week a former Omaha Public Schools teacher, Greg Sedlacek, found out he will serve 40 to 65 years behind bars. He's admitted to sexually assaulting half-a-dozen students at Fontenelle Elementary.

We reached out to Omaha Public Schools, Thursday, to learn more about their policies regarding abuse and mandatory reporting.

OPS has 824 pages of policies and regulations online that was last updated June 13.

Their handbook is clear employees: "Shall not engage in physical or sexual abuse of students...” Adopted in 2014.

It also outlines state mandatory reporting laws: “...report of child abuse or neglect to be made to the principal and shall personally assure that the matter has been reported to child protective services or appropriate law enforcement agency within 24 hours.” Adopted in 2016.

Monique Farmer, District Communications Director said those policies were not updated in June because they were already consistent with state law.

Farmer declined an interview saying we have already talked to them regarding their policies.

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In Nebraska, under the law, everyone is a mandatory reporter.

“This doesn’t mean we are telling someone else and hoping they make the report,” Angela Roeber, Project Harmony Communications Director said. “We have the obligation to make the report. We need to be calling law enforcement. We need to be calling CPS if we suspect something is not right and let the professionals take it from there.”

Roeber said if you see something, say something.

“Make the call to law enforcement or the child abuse hot-line,” Roeber said. “You do not need to know all the facts. Just tell them everything you know and let the professionals take it from there. You never know if your call is going to be the first call or 10th call and that will really raise red flags for their investigations.”

We can also protect children by talking to them about their bodies/abuse, and minimizing one on one situations.

“Paying attention to any sort of special treatment your child is receiving from an adult or older youth,” Roeber said. “It starts from building that friendship and trust and from their it progresses. Maybe it’s extra privileges, holding hands, sitting on a lap, buying a child gifts, showing that child extra special attention.”

Back in December, when the OPS School Board fired Greg Sedlacek, Superintendent Cheryl Logan said all OPS staff would go through training on mandatory reporting.

Farmer said that training has happened. She sent us this link to a two minute video on mandatory reporting. At the time of this report, it has been viewed on YouTube 128 times.

Project Harmony Training Institute offers several free courses on the topic. You can see the courses offered here.