OKLAHOMA CITY – Attorney General Mike Hunter and newly appointed Department of Human Services (DHS) Director Justin Brown today called for a renewed focus to combat child abuse after Senate Bill 576 went into effect last month and schools around the state have resumed classes.
SB 576 amends the reporting requirements for public school employees. The law makes clear that all school employees, faculty and staff who suspect child abuse are required to contact DHS and law enforcement authorities. The change to the law also requires law enforcement to keep the name of the school employee who reports abuse confidential.
In addition to today’s announcement, Attorney General Hunter has sent a letter to law enforcement across the state, pledging his office’s support in assisting with child abuse investigations.
“Child abuse is a horrific, devastating and unthinkable crime and my office stands ready to help agencies that may not have the resources necessary to handle these investigations,” Attorney General Hunter said. “Our statewide law enforcement partners have an incredibly difficult job, while facing unique challenges on a day-to-day basis in order to protect Oklahomans. Director Brown and I agree that we should do everything in our power to ensure this new law does not create a burden on them.
“I appreciate Director Brown for his leadership and allowing my office to work with his in order to keep children, who may be in harm’s way, safe. Likewise, Director Brown and I applaud the members of the legislature, led by Sen. Chris Kidd, who worked together to strengthen this law.”
DHS Director Brown said he hopes today’s announcement also serves as a reminder that everyone in the state has the duty to report child abuse or neglect.
“Our state has ranked near the bottom in terms of child abuse rates for too long,” Director Brown said. “We all have a moral a statutory role to play in ensuring the well-being of children and that means reporting abuse when the signs are clear. With stronger partnerships between DHS, law enforcement, public education officials and now the Attorney General’s Office, we will work together to help children in need.
“Attorney General Hunter and his team are to be commended for getting involved in this critical effort.”
State law requires every person in Oklahoma who has reason to believe a child under 18 has been abused or neglected - or is in danger of being abused or neglected - to report the matter to the DHS hotline at 1.800.522.3511. Failure to promptly report child abuse is a misdemeanor offense.
For more on how to report child abuse, click here: https://bit.ly/2VcbPnV.
To read the attorney general’s letter to law enforcement, click here.
Bill Authors React
“We should use all the tools at our disposal to ensure Oklahoma’s children are being cared for. Protecting our children is not a choice, it is our obligation. I appreciate my colleagues, who worked side by side with me to get this important legislation passed.” – Sen. Chris Kidd, R – Waurika
“As elected officials, we are called upon to stand up for the vulnerable in our state. By harmonizing the reporting standards, the amendment to SB 576 will help children who are being neglected or abused.” – Sen. Allison Ikley-Freeman, D – Tulsa
“Child abuse cannot be tolerated in our state. That is why contacting law enforcement when making an initial report to DHS will help expedite the investigative process and hold accountable those committing this devastating crime.” – Rep. Sherrie Conley, R – Newcastle
“Until we see an end to abused and neglected children in our state, there needs to be a collaborative effort between law enforcement, schools and the members of the legislature. Working together, we will make a difference in the lives of children and keep them free from harm.” – Rep. Chelsey Branham, D – Edmond