Child Abuse Reporting Laws for Tennessee

State and Statute: Tennessee, Code §§ 37-1-401 and 37-1-605 et seq.

What Is Reportable “Abuse”: Physical, mental, or sexual abuse, or neglect. [403 and 605]

Mandatory Reporters: Any person [403(a)(1)] Includes (but is not limited to) “(a)uthority figures at a community facility … for educational, religious, social, health, or welfare purposes, including, but not limited to, facilities operated by schools … or church or religious organizations,” practitioners relying on spiritual means for healing, school teachers, school officials, and school personnel. [605(a)]

How and Where to Report: By telephone or otherwise, to the judge having juvenile jurisdiction over the child; the department of children’s services (either the local office or the department’s centralized intake procedure, where applicable); sheriff of the county where the child resides; or the chief law enforcement official of the municipality where the child resides. [403(a)(2)] For sexual abuse cases, “to the local office of the department responsible for the investigation of reports made pursuant to this section or to the judge having juvenile jurisdiction or to the office of the sheriff or the chief law enforcement official of the municipality where the child resides.” [605(b)(1)]

Timeline to Report: Immediately. [403 and 605(b)(1)]

Clergy Privilege: Non-sexual child abuse: “Neither the husband-wife privilege … nor the psychiatrist-patient privilege … nor the psychologist-patient privilege … is a ground for excluding evidence regarding harm or the cause of harm to a child in any dependency and neglect proceeding resulting from a report of such harm … or a criminal prosecution for severe child abuse.” [411]

Sexual child abuse: “The privileged quality of communication between husband and wife and between any professional person and the professional person’s patient or client, and any other privileged communication, except that between attorney and client, as such communication relates both to the competency of the witness and to the exclusion of confidential communications, shall not apply to any situation involving known or suspected child sexual abuse and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by this part, failure to cooperate with the department in its activities pursuant to this part, or failure to give evidence in any judicial proceeding relating to child sexual abuse.” [614]

Penalty for Knowingly Failing to Report: Class “Any person required to report known or suspected child sexual abuse who knowingly fails to do so, or who knowingly prevents another person from doing so, commits an offense: (A) a first violation is a Class A misdemeanor (B) a second violation is a Class E felony” [37-1-412 and 37-1-615]

Civil Liability for Failure to Report Recognized? No statute recognizes civil liability. Consult with legal counsel to ensure no recent court decisions in Tennessee have recognized civil liability.

Immunity for Inaccurate Report: “If, acting in good faith, the person makes a report of harm … The person shall not be liable in any civil or criminal action that is based solely upon: (i) The person’s decision to report what the person believed to be harm; (ii) The person’s belief that reporting the harm was required by law; or (iii) The fact that a report of harm was made. Because of the overriding public policy to encourage all persons to report the neglect of or harm or abuse to children, any person upon whom good faith immunity is conferred … shall be presumed to have acted in good faith in making a report of harm.” [410(5)(A)(B)]

Disclosure of Mandatory Reporter’s Identity: Reporter’s identity is confidential and may not be disclosed without reporter’s consent except as provided by statute. Reporter’s identity is confidential in cases involving alleged sexual abuse and shall not be provided except as provided by statute. [33-3-108]

Additional Information for Tennessee:

All information provided here was most recently verified in March of 2023.

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