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Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools board approves updates to child abuse policy

<p>Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education members listen to comments from the public during a work session on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 in Chapel Hill.</p>
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Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education members listen to comments from the public during a work session on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019 in Chapel Hill.

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education unanimously approved the first draft of an expanded child abuse reporting policy on Nov. 21.

Janet Cherry, director of System of Care, said the updated policy would require public school employees to report any suspected child abuse regardless of the perpetrator’s relationship to the child. Before, the district employees were only required to report suspected child abuse perpetrated by a child’s parent or guardian figure.

The policy will also change how employees report suspected abuse. Though district employees will still be able to report suspected child abuse to county social services, the new policy will require them to also report to the Division of Child Development and Early Education of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Consequences for failing to report could include discipline within the school system or, under certain circumstances, placement on the N.C. Child Maltreatment Registry.

This policy discussion follows a lawsuit filed against CHCCS in May that accused the school district of failing to prevent sexual abuse within schools. 

According to the suit, several older students allegedly had sexually abused three first-graders at Estes Hills Elementary School around spring of 2010. The lawsuit moved to the U.S. District Court in early October. 

Some parents at the board meeting wanted change beyond the updated child abuse policy. 

Christina McClean told the board an older student sexually abused her six-year-old daughter at Frank Porter Graham Elementary School. She and her boyfriend, Francis Gilliam, said they are upset with the school’s response, which they said lacked urgency. 

McClean also said the school needs to revise its supervision policies to provide her daughter and other kids with a safer environment.

“She needs to be comfortable where she is,” McClean said. “Supervision should be the top priority for everybody at the school. Period.”

McClean said she shouldn’t have to take her daughter out of school because she doesn’t feel she’s safe there.

“Yes, you all might do good academics, but right now you’re failing in supervision,” she told the board. “And you have failed us.”

McClean’s mother, Anna Mercer-McClean, told the board that the district’s child abuse and supervision policies are too broad. 

“They’re more about who’s coming from the outside versus what actually happens inside, and that is the problem,” she said. “No one’s looking at what’s happening inside.”

She said teachers should be placed strategically around classrooms and playgrounds, always aware.

“Their backs against the wall, not their backs against children,” she said.

@David_Saff

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@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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