BATON ROUGE—State Sen. J.P. Morrell (D-District 3) has requested a state inquiry into allegations of child abuse at a Shreveport Episcopal school for not following mandated reporting laws, but the head of one advocacy group says mandated reporting, while well-intentioned, doesn’t address the real needs of the children.
A mother is suing St. Mark’s Cathedral School (SMCS) because she believes her son, identified only as M.R. was wrongfully expelled from the school. According to the lawsuit, her 6th-grade son stayed in a cabin with four other male students at Pine Cove when they were on a weekend trip in 2014. After the trip, one of the other students who stayed in M.R.’s cabin accused him of inappropriate behavior, and the student’s mom filed a complaint with the school. According to news reports, the chaperones did not witness the behavior and reported that M.R.’s conduct was appropriate.
Two days after the field trip, SCMS Head of School Chris Carter expelled the young boy. The Withdrawal Certificate states that he was expelled for “inappropriate touching of other students when not in the presence of adults.”
In October 2015, the mother sued Carter and SCMS for disability discrimination, breach of contract, disparate treatment, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violation of the family educational rights and privacy act.
The mother spoke out to KSLA News 12 in April about the lawsuit, saying that her son has ADHD, which the school was aware of. Following the news report, Morrell sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Landry requesting an investigation into SCMS and Carter for not reporting alleged sexual abuse.
Louisiana State Law Revised Statute 14:403 requires teachers to report any child abuse to the authorities. In 2012, Morrell sponsored Act 614, which stiffens the punishment for willfully not reporting suspected abuse. The attorney general’s office could not confirm or deny an investigation.
Lyndon Haviland, CEO of Darkness to Light, an advocacy group whose mission is to educate adults about child abuse said punishing the school for not reporting alleged abuse is not the answer.
"Increasing the severity of punishment for those who fail to report is well intentioned, but does not address the root of the problem," Haviland told the Louisiana Record in an email.
Haviland would like to see more training for educators on how to stop sexual abuse.
"Increasing knowledge empowers mandated reporters and helps to create environments where prevention is possible," she said. "One in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday and, despite this staggering statistic, our educators and youth serving professionals are unclear of their responsibility for protecting children and how to do so. One of the most effective ways we can combat this problem is by training school and other youth-serving personnel to work together to actively prevent sexual abuse from happening… ."
Morrell’s office did not respond to an interview request.