We're not talking Clark Kent here. …Although teachers are basically superheroes.
Here's how it works. In most states, professionals who spend time with children are designated as mandated reporters, which means that they are required to report any suspected child maltreatment. Frequently included professions on state mandated reporter lists: childcare workers, police officers, nurses, doctors, and, of course, teachers.
In 18 states, anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report it regardless of profession. So Clark Kent is totally on the hook in Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
Oh wait, Clark Kent worked in Metropolis, so we guess he's off the hook.
So what do you have to do?
As a teacher, you are most certainly a mandated reporter.
But what, exactly, does that mean? While the specific requirements may vary from state to state (in terms of when to call, whom to call, and whether or not you can make your report anonymously), in general, if you have any reason to suspect that a child has been a victim of abuse or neglect, you must report your suspicions to the proper authorities.
And, um, who are the proper authorities?
When you suspect abuse or neglect, you should contact either your local child protective services office (which is probably a division of your state's Department of Health and Human Services) or a police agency.
If you're uncertain about whom to call (not these guys), you can either check in with your school counselors or call the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline. The hotline is available 24/7 and "offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources." In addition, all calls are confidential and they can help you in more than 200 languages.
Hey, that's even better than what we can do (we only know 189).
Your state's requirements
For a state-by-state listing of mandatory reporting requirements, scroll through this file from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The information is listed alphabetically by state beginning on page 5.
And here's an overview of the state statutes that apply to the mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
But what if making the call makes things worse?
Plus, you're required to by law. So…yeah. Just call.