In light of the questions raised regarding the alleged inaction of various Penn State University coaches and officials stemming from the alleged sexual assault of a child by a former assistant football coach, we thought it might be beneficial to highlight the duty to report statutes in Ohio.
Ohio Rev. Code § 2151.421(A)(1)(a) states that a person acting in an official or professional capacity who knows, has reason to know, or has reason to suspect that a child under the age of 18 or 21, if mentally disabled, has suffered or faces a threat of suffering abuse or neglect, shall immediately report that knowledge to children services or a municipal or county peace officer. The duty to report applies to a number of professionals, including:
- physician (including a hospital intern or resident);
- practitioner of a limited branch of medicine;
- registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or visiting nurse;
- other health care professional;
- licensed psychologist;
- licensed school psychologist;
- independent marriage and family therapist or marriage and family therapist;
- speech pathologist or audiologist;
- administrator or employee of a child day-care center;
- administrator or employee of a residential camp or child day camp;
- administrator or employee of a certified child care agency or other public or private children services agency;
- school teacher;
- school employee;
- school authority;
- person engaged in social work or the practice of professional counseling;
- agent of a county humane society;
- person, other than a cleric, rendering spiritual treatment through prayer in accordance with the tenets of a well-recognized religion;
- employee of a county department of job and family services who is a professional and who works with children and families;
In addition to Ohio Rev. Code § 2151.421, Ohio has a general reporting statute. Ohio Rev. Code § 2921.22, states, "no person, knowing that a felony has been or is being committed, shall knowingly fail to report such information to law enforcement authorities." If a person fails to disclose information to law enforcement, they are guilty of failure to report a crime and may be charged with a misdemeanor.
Had these incidents occurred at an Ohio university, it is doubtful that reporting the incident up the chain of command would have been sufficient to avoid indictment. Professionals and officials covered under Section 2151.421 therefore should be mindful of their obligations under that statute to avoid potential prosecution. Furthermore, in light of the reputational damage that likely would follow an incident similar to the one at Penn State, employers of such professionals and officials would be wise to make sure that their staff understand these obligations and are counted on to comply with them.