Teachers, school counselors, school officials and school nurses are all mandatory reporters under SDCL 26-8A. A mandatory reporter is an individual or agency who is required by state law to report any instance where he or she has reasonable cause to suspect that a child under the age of 18 has been abused or neglected. Mandatory reporters must report the instance to the state’s attorney of the county in which the child resides or is present, the Department of Social Services (DSS) or law enforcement officers.

This survey was developed and administered by faculty at the University of South Dakota, and results are presented by Amy Schweinle, Ph.D., Ramu Sudhagoni, Ph.D., William Schweinle, Ph.D., and Michael Lawler, Ph.D.


This survey was delivered to those who are mandatory reporters and those who deliver child maltreatment curriculum in a South Dakota K-12 public school. The content addresses their preparation for being a mandatory reporter, reporting, and knowledge. It also addresses attitudes/personal beliefs toward child maltreatment. These can lend insight into patterns of results of the former set of questions.


We hope to administer these surveys annually across 5 years, at a minimum to ascertain needed changes, note longer-term effects of interventions, and identify patterns of stability and change. These items were adapted from the Educators and Child Abuse Questionnaire (ECAQ) (Kenny, 2001, 2004) and the Teachers’ Reporting Attitude Scale for Child Sexual Abuse by Walsh and colleagues (2010).


Educators feel a professional responsibility and obligation as mandatory reporters.  They agree that reporting is necessary for the safety of children and can enable services to be made available. It is heartening that most agreed that their principals would also support them in making a report.  In fact almost 1/3 (29%) have made at least one report of abuse.

It has happened, among a few (16%), that there has been at least one time when they thought a child might have been abused but did not report it. The reasons for not reporting included, most commonly, a fear that the system is not effective in helping maltreated children. They were also afraid of making an inaccurate report. While they believe that reporting is important and can help get services to children, they are also skeptical about the system.

This skepticism could stem from a lack of training provided to educators and lack of communication with the system after a report has been made. Most had training about child abuse and/or child abuse reporting at some time, although one-third did not. However, for a majority, that training has not continued through professional development as 60% said that their PD courses do not help with cases of child abuse. Educators would like more training, especially regarding the legal requirements and process of reporting as well as the signs of child neglect, sexual abuse and physical abuse.

In short, while educators take their role as a mandatory reporter very seriously, they could strongly benefit from continued training in how to identify cases of maltreatment, the process of reporting, and from better communication with agencies after a report has been made. We will continue to administer this survey to educators and administrators every year to note patterns and changes. Results can inform on the efficacy of policy changes or trainings. It can tell us what facets of mandatory reporting and child maltreatment change or remain stable over time.