Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Nutty Professor meets Barney Fife in Oregon's public sector: Where part-time faculty are 24/7 child abuse reporters

I am an adjunct professor at one of Oregon's public universities. In case you were wondering, adjunct is just a fancy way of saying, part-time.

As an adjunct I don't have any obligations to publish obscure academic articles that no one reads. I don't have any obligation to serve on time-consuming committees investigating whether the university should ban the selling of bottled water on campus (yes, this really is considered a crucial issue in higher education).

But, I do have to teach class for four hours a week, be available to meet with students, and give them grades.

Pretty mundane, corduroy-jacket-with-arm-patch type stuff. But, little did I know until yesterday, that in addition to my part-time teaching gig, I am deputized as a 24/7 child abuse crime fighter, as outlined in this email I got from the university administration (of course I added all the emphasis):

All ... faculty and staff, including student employees and graduate assistants, are mandatory reporters under Oregon's child abuse reporting law and should understand their child abuse reporting obligations.

...

Reporting is both a professional and personal requirement, and it goes beyond the workplace. This means that you are a mandatory child abuse reporter 24/7, and you are required to report suspected child abuse anytime, anywhere. In other words, whether you learn of suspected abuse or a suspected abuser while at work, while coaching your child's soccer team, or when shopping for groceries on the weekend, your reporting obligation is the same. Failure to report is a crime, but mandatory reporters are immune from liability for reporting suspected abuse in good faith.

Now, child abuse is on my list of Bad Things That Should Be Reported.

But really. It seems a bit extreme that one can go from part-time professor to full-time criminal if he or she doesn't report even a suspicion of child abuse. In other words, I --- or any public employee in Oregon --- could be fired and charged with a crime if we don't call the police to report a parent spanking a child for misbehaving in the grocery store. Or if we see a kid with a bruise, and file a police report on our suspicions of possible abuse.

And, I'm sure that who immune-from-liability thing will never get abused ... [snark]

My guess is this law will go down as one of those Laws That's on the Books, But Never Gets Enforced Until Something Really, Really Bad Happens.

So where did it come from?

Penn State, of course.

Oh, by the way. For my right-leaning friends who think this is some sort of Loony Liberal Legislation. Guess again. The legislation passed unanimously in the Oregon House and Senate. That's right: Every single D and every single R.

So if you see me walking through campus with a bit more swagger than before, you'll know its because from here on out I'm the law in these parts. And justice never rests.