Key point 4-08. Every state has a child abuse reporting law that requires persons designated as mandatory reporters to report known or reasonably suspected incidents of child abuse. Ministers are mandatory reporters in many states. Some states exempt ministers from reporting child abuse if they learned of the abuse in the course of a conversation protected by the clergy-penitent privilege. Ministers may face criminal and civil liability for failing to report child abuse.
An Arkansas appeals court ruled that a school counselor who reported a case of child abuse 14 days after learning about it had not reported the abuse "immediately" as required by the state child abuse reporting law, and therefore was properly convicted for the crime of failing to report abuse immediately and sentenced to one-year probation and payment of a $2,500 fine. An 18-year-old woman (the "victim") informed her father that she had been involved in a sexual relationship with her high school volleyball coach for two years beginning when she was 16 years of age. The victim was extremely distressed over the break-up of her relationship with the coach, and did not want her parents to report the affair to the authorities. The victim's parents met with the coach two days later and insisted that she resign. Later that day the parents received a call from the school counselor (the "defendant") who convinced the parents that, for the good of the school and their relationship with their daughter, they should not report the inappropriate relationship to the police. Instead, the defendant told the parents that they should view the incident as a "bad breakup" and wait until the end of the school year when the coach would quietly resign her position.