Since teachers spend almost eight hours a day with their students, they are privy to a lot of information that other adults might overlook. This is the reason they are mandatory reporters, meaning if they even suspect that abuse of any sort is taking place in a student's life, they are required by law to report it to the proper authorities. These teachers saw something and said something, and hopefully that was enough to get a vulnerable child to a safe space. Content has been edited for clarity.
"Back in the early 2000s, I taught for a year at an inner city elementary school in Florida. I LOVED the job. Best job I’ve ever had. The kids were all sweet and appreciative (I taught computers, which they loved).
If we paid teachers a living wage, I would still be doing it (but that’s a different question).
One morning, I was on breakfast duty in the cafeteria. Just basically making sure things were OK. I saw one of the kindergartners crying. I knew her (I taught every child in the school), so I got down to her level and asked what was wrong.
She was crying because she forgot her backpack.
Then I got the whole story. She lived with her grandmother, because both her parents were in jail. Her grandmother wasn’t much better and apparently had an addiction and partying problem. Turns out her grandmother had left her alone for THREE days.
She had gotten herself up and to school every day. Her only meals had been breakfast and lunch at school. She had been taking care of herself.
And what she was upset about was forgetting her backpack.
Yes, I had to call CPS."
"The one instance in which I had to call the state child protective services agency was botched badly, and the student's situation worsened. Apparently, the agency social worker allowed the accused mother to pull my student into another room, where the mother threatened to kill my student if she told about the abuse. Then, the child was interviewed right there in the mother's presence. Needless to say, the child recanted, claiming the whole thing was a stunt for attention, and the case was dropped. This was the worst handling of an abuse investigation in my experience as both an educator and a guardian ad litem.
The child was a girl, and I didn't find out until years later what the mother had said to her, after she reconnected with me as an adult. As it turns out, the incident I reported was one of the least horrific things she experienced, and she deals with some heavy burdens now as a consequence of the abuse she suffered at her family's hands. I did the right thing, but I wish it had been handled correctly by the people in charge of the investigation."
"A 7th grade boy, who we will call Scott, came to school after missing several days with some serious bruises visible on his arms. He didn’t come to see me, but several other kids from his bus did. They said he told them his step dad beat him with a belt so I called him in to talk about it. He told me he let some kids come in their house when his parents weren’t home, which he was not allowed to do. The other kids broke an ash tray and stole some CD’s, so Scott got in trouble. The punishment was he was instructed to take off all of his clothes and his step dad beat him over his entire body, including private parts, with a leather belt. He showed me bruises up and down his legs and on his back.
I then called for the principal and school resource officer (both men) and I left my office while Scott showed them the rest of the bruises. The resource officer called the city police who came to take a report and photograph the bruises. They left to get a warrant to arrest the step father, which they did before school was out. We then called the mother and DCF. The mother was very angry that Scott showed anyone the bruises. DCF told her Scott could go home with her as long as she didn’t let her husband back in the house if he got out on bail. She absolutely refused and told DCF to just take Scott, she didn’t want him. He heard this, and tears were running down his face. Step father got sentenced to three years. Scott went to a therapeutic foster home, and I guess Mom went home to wait for her husband. This one broke my heart. I hear that Scott is now still struggling with this as a young man."
"I was a daycare teacher for a while. One child didn’t come often for daycare, but every time he came he was absolutely filthy, and starving. They never brought him any clothing or diapers and almost every time it was obvious his diaper hadn’t been changed in a good long time. Usually he was just in a diaper and a tank top, and maybe some socks in the winter. They only ever dropped him off to go to the casinos (tiny border casino town).
We’d wash him up and feed him as much as he wanted. We called more than once, but nothing was ever done. It broke my heart every time we handed him back to the parents, but there wasn’t anything we could do really."
"There were two incidents that pretty much shook me to my core.
The day care center I work at specializes with children with disabilities. One day in the summer of 2015, a girl who was about 7 came in and she kept touching the back of her head. I’ll call her ‘Abby’ but I’m protecting her identity. I asked her if something was wrong. She has dyslexia, so her speech is hard to interpret, but she formed her hands into fists and made a ‘boo-boo’ sound. I decided to ask the teacher in the room if I could take the little girl to the nurse. The teacher was curious, but allowed me to take her.
Once in the nurse’s office, Abby touched the back of her head and the nurse moved her hair back to reveal a big black and blue bruise. We decided to call the emergency room to have the child looked at and probably take a cat-scan because we feared she may have a fractured skull or worse. We then called CPS to inform them of Abby’s injury. When the CPS worker interviewed the child, she made the same motion with her hands and said ‘boo-boo.’ I’m sure she was trying to say ‘boom-boom.’ When asked who hit her, Abby struggled to say ‘Ma.’ The girl’s mother was interviewed and everyone was shocked when she admitted to hitting Abby in the back of the head with a spoon and kept hitting her because the little girl couldn’t read properly. Abby didn’t have a fractured skull, so she was released into the custody of her aunt, who like her, has dyslexia. The head of the day-care decided to ban Abby’s mother from entering the property. As of today, Abby is making some progress with her reading, but it’s still a struggle for her.
This one is the most recent and this one will probably stay with me forever. This pass January, another little girl (whom I’ll call ‘Katie’), age 5 came in and was crying. We thought it was separation anxiety as it usually happens among young children. Katie has an unspecified disability, but her parents said that she has a speech disability as she barely speaks. We knew something was not right with her, so we decided to stay close to her throughout the day. Katie kept saying words like ‘big man’ and ‘smelly’ and also ‘hurt.’ This was the first time we heard Katie use such big words for a 5 year old. We asked her what did she mean, but she started crying.
We approached the parents and asked if they knew something about a ‘big smelly man.’ They said they had a New Year’s party at their house and they had a friend stay over who was down on his luck. Something clicked in us and we took Katie to the emergency room to be checked out. The nurse discovers big bite marks on Katie’s thigh and shoulders and CPS was called. The police became involved when the teeth marks matched to the friend’s teeth. The friend said that, in a wasted haze, he went to the girl’s room, who was asleep and bit her on the thigh and again on the shoulders. He silenced her, but she screamed in pain, and that’s when he left the room. He admitted to having a fetish for biting.
The parents had no idea it was him because their daughter was making no sense when she tried to talk about it the next day. We were all shocked by this man’s behavior, but the parents were enraged by what he did. The friend was arrested for assault on a minor. Katie had to get at least ten stitches on one shoulder and at least twenty on her thigh. The CPS agents, myself, and my colleagues were suspicious of the parents because they didn’t take Katie to the hospital for her injuries. It was decided by CPS to remove Katie from her parents’ custody and place her with a family member who lived one state over. The parents were very upset and they continue to fight for custody."
"I work in an autistic support classroom. A number of our kids are nonverbal and can't tell us when something is bothering them. We have a kid who would come in smelling awful, hair hasn't been washed in months, clothes are caked with dirt and urine, wearing the same pull-ups for several days. Then last year he started the year with a pretty bad sinus infection. It took a lot to convince his mom to take him to get antibiotics. He was on them for a month but it didn't make a difference. Them one day the school dentist did an exam and discovered that one of his teeth was completely rotten, like totally black and smelled horrific. We told mom he needs to see the dentist immediately but she kept coming up with excuses not to. Finally one day she sends him in with a 'dentist note' saying he had work done, but it was clearly forged and his tooth was still rotten. So we notified CPS.
They basically ignored us saying there was no proof, so we did it 2 more times until they FINALLY sent someone to actually examine him. It turns out his mom, who doesn't work, stays home all day and then when her 4 kids get home from school, she takes off leaving, the 11 year old to take care of his younger siblings. When she is actually home for once, she physically abuses all of them. My student is covered in scars and the moment someone says the words stop or no, he hits the other kids because he associates those words with violence. I have no clue what happened with CPS over the summer since they refuse to tell us, but he at least came back this year with clean hair and that rotten tooth pulled. He's still coming in filthy and the only time his pull-ups get changed is when he's here. Sadly, we may have to deal with CPS again soon."
"There have been many, many times, too many times to state all of them, where I have had to report a child to Child Protective Services. We are required by law to report concrete suspicions, not just halfhearted guesses. We are mandated reporters.
Where shall I begin?
-The day I finally figured out why Lacy kept crying in class. I had been constantly asking her about my suspicions, but she kept denying it. Two weeks later I could see it…she was pregnant by her dad, and she was just 12 years old.
-The day Wendy gave me a note from her mother. The note said, 'Can I borrow $20 for groceries?' I told Wendy I don't give cash out, but after school I would go get her mom and take her grocery shopping for her family. Wendy began to tremble and cry. She said she had to have the $20 cash. She finally admitted that her mother needed the money for crack and her mother said she better come home with the money or she'd beat her.
-The day 7-year-old Steven came to school with blisters on his hands and feet. His punishment for being bad was having his hands and feet put in boiling water.
-The day Samantha rushed past me at the beginning of the school day and sat at her desk using her hair to cover half her face. I went over to see why she was acting so strangely and pulled back her hair. Half her face and head was bruised and cut and missing chunks of hair. Her mother had smashed her daughter's head repeatedly through the windshield of the car the evening before.
-The day 12-year-old Tom’s father came to the classroom and began beating his son and tossing him around the room in front of all the class and me. He was throwing his son into desks and walls. The children witnessing this were horrified as they cried uncontrollably. I had just called his dad to tell him I caught his son trying to forcibly kiss a girl in the classroom and I requested a conference. That was the 'conference.'
-The day a parent burst through my classroom door and accused my 4th grade student of calling his daughter a racial slur on the playground earlier. I had my arms out wide to prevent him from getting past me to attack the girl. The children in my class were screaming and crying but I protected them by getting a grip on the situation and chasing him out of my classroom. I called police and CPS to get his own children out of that madman’s home.
-The day 6-year-old Jenny began screaming after morning bathroom break that she hurt 'down there.' I rushed her to the nurses office and we could smell an odor. The nurse looked, as she was allowed to with her job description, and little Jenny’s private area was all swollen with a discharge. A neighborhood teen boy had given her a disease.
-The day Carl brought a toy weapon to school, except that it was real, and he pulled the trigger and a bullet discharged into the ceiling. I was so scared and upset at what could have happened that my knees buckled under me and I couldn't get the strength to stand for almost an hour.
-The day 8-year-old Daniel kept being late to school because his mother had severe depression and never got out of bed to care for her children. The two meals they ate each day were at school. I looked out my classroom window one morning and saw him in his pajamas and slippers coming to school. Just as I was about to run out the school door to help him cross the street, he stepped off the curb and got hit by a car speeding through the school zone. He survived but we had to get the children into foster care until their mom was hospitalized and put on medication for depression. She was a good person. She was having a hard time caring for her family alone and lost her way.
There's more, but you get the idea. Which one was the one that finally drove me over the edge?
It was Lacy’s pregnancy. It was the final one that culminated the whole. I could just sense something was terribly wrong, and I kept asking her and asking her if someone was touching her or doing inappropriate things to her, and she just kept denying it and denying it.
After that, I took a leave of absence. I blame myself for not acting on my suspicions sooner. The thing is, she had a wonderful mother who had made a big mistake. She lied on her food stamp application and said she had no job, when she did. It was a minimum wage part-time job, her husband never would work, and she was trying to feed her family.
So guess what?
She was put in jail for a year to serve restitution because she couldn't pay the money back, leaving her two daughters with that sick, messed-up father of theirs and his two friends. After Lacy’s son was born, and I was able to see her again, I asked Lacy why she didn't tell me, or just tell SOMEBODY. She said she wanted to, but she was protecting her little sister, Crystal. Her dad and his friends threatened to hurt her little 5-year-old sister in the same way unless she complied.
I have many wonderful memories of teaching, and I have an attitude that allows me to see the bright side of life, but this was too much. I had a breakdown which I am still recovering from."
"I had a young lady come to me and tell me that she was being abused at home. Without missing a beat, I walked her down to her counselor who then wrote down her statement with me as a witness and then contacted the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). She was removed from the home temporarily until the mother’s boyfriend moved out and the mother agreed to counseling.
One student was removed from her home because she’d been impregnated by her brother. None of her teachers were even aware of her pregnancy until her mother called her in as absent and gave the explanation that she had just given birth. It was only after she returned to school that she told one of her teachers that her brother was the father. Her mother’s response was 'boys will be boys' and didn’t fight the process since 'I don’t need another child under this roof.'
Once upon a time, teachers were actually encouraged to touch students: a hand on the shoulder, a pat on the back, a high five, and so on. One of my male students flinched when I lightly touched his shoulder. I kept an eye on him for a couple of days— he usually was fine with someone touching him— and slowly began to put together a story about what was happening in his life. His older brother had returned from service overseas and was beating him for any little annoyance. The student had not been dressing for gym class for the better part of the week and one of his friends confided in me that he was badly bruised. A student who was normally involved and spirited had gone pretty quiet. He worshiped his brother and probably wouldn’t have said anything until teachers became involved."
"I passed the information on to my supervisors because I felt more comfortable having them make the decision. I was very upset about the incidents and wasn’t sure I would be able to be neutral when reporting it.
It was two brothers. The parents had divorced (he was abusive, where she got the moxie to leave him, I don’t know, but I’m glad she did) and he was charming, charismatic, attractive, and wealthy.
The little boys played and pretended different cars and toys were mom and dad, and reported horrible things their dad said. They reenacted several abuse situations, told me about how dad held them by their necks up against the car and their feet couldn’t touch the ground.
Unfortunately, the system didn’t work for these boys. Dad was awarded custody when he charmed the guardian ad litem. Not being able to help these two boys more is the greatest failure of my career."
"Yes, as a student teacher, many years ago.
It was high school English - we were studying a book called In Search of April Raintree - it’s tough. Really tough. The writing is easy - the material is brutal. It’s the story of a Metis teen, her sisters and their life; it’s got two suicides, a fairly graphic violation scene, some serious illegal substance abuse and a pile of child abuse. Wouldn’t have been my first curriculum pick, but hey, student teacher.
Anyway, I got the first set of response papers, and I was working through them, and one student had written a really passionate paper about why April does what she does to protect her younger brothers. April doesn’t have brothers. I called over my host teacher, re-read the paper and he said, 'Ever made a Children’s Aid call? I’ll walk you through it, but you found it, so legally, you need to be the reporter.' He walked me through the call, the report, the follow-up.
Unfortunately, the student was 17, almost 18, and there wasn’t a lot Children’s Aid could do - for her anyway. Her brothers? They were 12 and 9, and to the best of my knowledge, they never saw their father again - he got something in the area of 40 years. The trial made April Raintree look like a Bobbsey Twins book."
"The time that stands out to me the most was a case where we kept hearing stories from the child (3 turning 4) of how he would get food while daddy was sleeping. Now kids this age have vivid imaginations and tell stories a lot but some things he kept saying kept making us stop and think. His dad also would say odd things to us about what happened at home and we just kept getting weird feelings, but as far as we could tell, they were just a quirky family. One day the dad said that he woke up and the child had eaten an entire package of breakfast bars. I asked the boy about the story and he said he was hungry because he didn't eat when it was dark (night time) or when the sun woke up (morning) and didn't want to wake daddy up so daddy wouldn't get mad.
This alone had us deciding to go ahead and make the call just for a welfare check up. What happened the next day is something that I'll never forgive myself for taking so long to report. He came to school late (as usual) and had nail marks on his arms, back, and belly as well as a very clear, dark hand print on his face. You could see each joint from the person's fingers across his face. you could see where one finger caught his eye and bruised the thin skin under his eye. I couldn't keep it together. I wanted to make sure I kept him safe with us, so I let the dad drop off as usual and as soon as his dad was out of the building, we called CPS and took many, many photos and had everyone write up incident reports. He told us, 'Mommy get mad and hurt me,' and I lost it.
CPS ended up investigating and we heard that him and his siblings were left at their apartment all day alone and in one instance the child was wandering around a busy road alone as the CPS agents were pulling up.
For a few weeks, he remained at my center and every day the dad would angrily tell us all about how we were ruining their home life for no reason (even though this poor baby obviously deserved a safer home life) and tried to blame us for him potentially losing his job due to him having to take off to take care of his child.
To this day the whole situation makes me sick and I regret so much not listening to my gut when I first felt uneasy about the situation. I often wonder what happened to that child and hope that he is in a better environment. Now I listen to my gut."