Increased San Jose child abuse calls raise counselor concerns
Lincoln High School in San Jose is a part of the San Jose Unified School District. File photo.

Schools in the San Jose area are receiving an increasing number of calls for child abuse and neglect, and some counselors say they’re facing reporting problems.

Parents allegedly have been allowed to sit in on, or flat out refuse, interviews with child protective services pertaining to children who report the abuse. That’s causing concern for a group of counselors—who wish to remain anonymous due to the delicate nature of the situation—at the San Jose Unified School District.

“If the goal is to keep students safe and protect them from home environments that are, for a lack of a better word, awful, we simply cannot do that anymore,” said a counselor at San Jose Unified School District. “Children are going to act very differently when their abusers are in the room.”

The approach, she says, is frustrating both her and her colleagues. With parents in the room alongside social workers or police, she believes children may be more apprehensive in telling authorities what exactly is wrong.

The district declined to comment on the issue, while the San Jose Police Department referred San José Spotlight to officials with child protective services.

“We respond to every case of reported abuse. A report is taken and there is subsequent follow-up and investigation,” SJPD spokesperson Christian Camarillo told San José Spotlight.

Reporting such cases is part of the responsibility of teachers, mental health counselors and school administrators. They have the option of going to the police department, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office or the county’s Department of Family and Children’s Services.

A meeting last month between the city’s public safety committee and the county highlighted some of the issues with mandated reporting since the COVID-19 pandemic began, including an increase in calls now that students are coming back in person. This led to a delay in some cases being reported and suggestions on how to better deal with an influx of cases. According to the county, it follows standard state procedure when documenting and following up on cases.

“We have social workers who staff our Child Abuse and Neglect Center who utilize the state’s screening tool,” Daniel Little, director of the Santa Clara County Department of Family and Children’s Services, told San José Spotlight. “Our practice is to respond as quickly as we can.”

Whatever approach is taken, there still may be a delay in processing due to both an increased amount of cases and the amount of time it takes to get to law enforcement, according to police officials last month. Counselors who spoke with San José Spotlight, however, hope the issue can be dealt with more tactfully by keeping the children in mind—regardless of who is in the room.

“If I call CPS, then the parents are notified, and the kid is the one who suffers,” the anonymous counselor said. “But I’m a mandated reporter, so I have to call CPS. It’s like we’re in this loop that is just terrible for children.”

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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