Saturday, April 14, 2012

NYS:Yeshivas must report abuse & Rabbis not asked first

VIN reported In order to clarify existing regulations requiring all staff members in New York state non-public schools to report suspected incidents of child abuse to the authorities, the New York State Education Department has updated its web page  to eliminate any possible ambiguities. 
Thus Yeshiva staff are officially mandated reports and are not to ask  permission either from the administration or their rabbis before reporting suspected child abuse.
Q: Before making a report to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment, is a mandated reporter in a school legally permitted to first ask permission from the person in charge of the school?

A:  No.  Section 413(1)(b) of the Social Services Law provides that when a mandated reporter is required to make a report (which would be when the mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused or maltreated), the mandated reporter must make the report.  After making the report, the mandated reporter must notify the person in charge of the school that the report was made.  That notification comes after the report was made, not before.
Q:  Is the answer any different if the mandated reporter works in a school that is religiously affiliated and the person in charge of the school is a member of the clergy?

A:  No.  The mandated reporter must make a report once the mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused or maltreated.  The mandated reporter may not ask permission from the person in charge of the school, even if that person is a member of the clergy. 


  1. The Education Department's website does not make law or interpert laws. And New York State law has not recently been changed in this regard. Thus what was law last year is still law today. The reading of the law allowing a rabbi to be notified first, thus, remains unchanged.

  2. "Rona" could not be more wrong.

    A significant function of state administrative agencies, like the NYS Education Department, and the Office of Children and Family Services (a division within DSS - NYS Department of Social Services), is to publicize the law, and to explain the law.

    Five of the the 10 questions on the State Ed web site pertain to Agudath Israel's well-publicized campaign, over the past year, to persuade the orthodox public that it is prohibited mesirah for a frum mandated reporter to first call child protection services without a senior rabbi's permission who initially determines whether the halachic threshold of raglayim l'davar has been satisfied.

    However, there is nothing in any of Agudath Israel's numerous statements on this subject that suggests any reliance on the actual text of the statute, Social Services Law section 413. There is absolutely nothing in the statute to suggest that a frum mandated reporter may first ask a supervising rabbi whether his report to the government complies with Torah law; or that a Catholic catechist teacher may ask her Bishop whether her report complies with Church canon law.

    Aguda's statements represent a form of lawless anarchy. According to Aguda, organized religious sects in America may, unilaterally, declare their own law in total defiance of clear, unambiguous statutes.

    In the face of this defiance, which has created widespread confusion and anger in the orthodox world, two powerful state agencies, State Ed and DSS/OCFS, properly step in to re-announce the simple legal obligations of mandated reporters.

    The State Ed web page does not truly "interpret" section 413. An interpretation is needed where there is an authentic ambiguity in the text of the statute, and here, there is none. Aguda has never pointed to any ambiguity in the statute for their absurd position that religious mandated reporters may first ask senior Jewish, Catholic, or other theologians for a "heter" or "dispensation" to call child protection authorities.

  3. The State Ed web site is an announcement that mandated reporters are under a non-delegable duty to call child protection authorities once they have reasonable cause to suspect child abuse. Do not call your Rosh Yeshiva, do not call your Bishop, call the government.

    Courts have consistently held that administrative agency interpretations of the statutes they are legally charged with administering are entitled to significant weight.

    Here, there is no doubt that the State Ed and DSS/OCFS pronouncements on the statute would be upheld in court, if a judicial challenge were to be made. The Q and A web page is comparable to the FBI announcing, Murder is a crime. There is no ambiguity in the murder statutes, nor in the mandated reporting statute. Again, neither Aguda, nor anybody else, points to any ambiguity on this subject.

    "Rona" suggest that Aguda's "reading of the law allowing a rabbi to be notified first" is functionally equivalent to the important advice given on the State Ed web page. In other words, they have their interpretation of the law, and we have ours.

    Rona is wrong because, firstly, no "interpretation" or "reading" of the statute is involved here. The mandated reporting statute is unambiguous, just like the statutes prohibiting murder, theft, or kidnapping.

    Rona is also wrong because, as stated, courts give significant weight to the statutory interpretations of administrative agencies like State Ed, and DSS/OCFS.

    That is not to say that logical and intelligent interpretations of statutes by private parties, be they corporations, religious groups, or private persons, will be ignored. Indeed, there are more than a few cases where state or federal administrative agencies have incorrectly analyzed pertinent laws. Agencies have exceeded their own actual legal power. In response, courts have rejected their positions.

    That is not the case here. Not Aguda, not the Church, not Rona, offer any "reading" or "interpretation" of the mandated reporting law which would somehow authorize a mandated reporter to first receive a heter or dispensation from his supervising rabbi or bishop before calling the government.

    The State Ed web page is, really, democracy in its purest form, by announcing the simple legal obligations of mandated reporters to the general public.

  4. Agudah Senior VP Chaim Dovid Zweibel is a New York State lawyer. He read the statue of the NYS law and clearly read the statue supporting Agudah's position.

    Furthermore, there is nothing preventing a mandated reporter from first consulting with a lawyer to inquire whether a certain issue or case is required to be reported to the authorities, per the law.


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