The world stood still when COVID-19 hit, forcing schools to go virtual and leaving many young people without their safe place, but in the past year, child abuse cases nationwide have decreased drastically.

 

“What’s unique about teachers is that they see kids every single day, and so they are often able to spot when something is out of place, out of whack, when something is not right early on, so they are one of our largest reporters,” said Rhonda Hodnett, with the Louisiana Department of Child and Family Services. “Thankfully they often report earlier on the situation that is spiraling downward.”

 

The Department of Child and Family Services believes that time away from the classroom had a direct impact on the number of child abuse cases reported to authorities.

 

“The real headline is that while cases of child abuse and neglect have decreased nationwide and Louisiana as well, and the concern is that when abuse and neglect is being identified further along in the course of maltreatment and is often times being identified now by medical professional, perhaps, and the severity of abuse and neglect appears to be more serious,” Hodnett said.

 

Discipline and Behavior District Coordinator, Jeanice Biondini understands the vital role these teachers play in the lives of students.

 

“They realize that it is a huge responsibility to be in a child’s life,’ Biondini said. “They’re mentors, they set positive examples and positive role modeling for so many things. A lot of times they’re that mother figure or parent figure in that child’s life.”

The State Department says in Lake Charles, there’s been an overall decrease in cases of nearly 31-percent, the largest fall seen in the months that school would typically be in session but wasn’t due to the pandemic and then Hurricanes Laura and Delta.

 

“I will say since they have returned face to face and anytime teachers begin that relationship and discover anything that could be neglect or harm to students, they make those reports, so we’re seeing a steady number of mandated reports come through from our teachers and district.”

 

While they never hope to see reports of child abuse, school and state officials are optimistic now that class is back in session, they’ll again see more accurate reporting.

 

Originally posted by KPLC, read here.

 

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