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Teachers play important role in identifying signs of neglect, abuse as students return to school

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(WAOW)-- Teachers and school officials are mandated reporters of child abuse. These past several months, schools were closed due to COVID-19, followed by summer break, which means less eyes on students who may come from difficult backgrounds and are suffering in silence.

However, as students get ready to go back to a classroom setting, experts say teachers should look our for any signs of abuse.

"It is good to ask a open ended question like 'hey, what happened to your face', or 'hey, what happened to your arm.' Just be really open and give them to chance to give you the narrative," said Christa Jensen from Marathon County Social Services.

Teachers may not have seen their students for the last six months, and a lot could have happened behind closed doors in that time period.

"If they see something that is of concern under law they are obligated to report it to human services and human services follows up," said Craig Broeren, the superintendent of the Wisconsin Rapids School District.

Many times it is teachers who recognize any indication that a student might be abused or neglected at home.

"Are they presenting themselves as ready to go for school, or has their behavior regressed since the last time you saw them? Those behavioral indicators are going to be the most important thing staff will watch out for," Jensen said.

During the Safer at Home Order, cases reported to Wisconsin Child Protective Services has been down.

Back in 2019 there were more than 700 cases reported in Marathon County, now the total is 532.

Which Jensen said is because there were more eyes on students because they were in school last year.

As for teachers doing virtual teaching, you can keep your eyes out too by simply asking the student who is home with them or who is their coach during virtual learning.

If they say they do not have any one them that is a concern that needs to be brought up.

Victoria Saha

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