If a parent or person(s) legally responsible (PLR) for a child are involved in a case of child abuse or neglect, filing a report with Child Protective Services is the correct response. PLR includes anyone in a caretaking capacity over 18 who is legally responsible for the care of the child, such as grandparents or other relatives, foster parents, or daycare providers.
In New York State, reports of child abuse and neglect by parents or PLR are made to the Statewide Central Register (SCR) of Child Abuse and Maltreatment or NYS Child Abuse Hotline, which relays information to the local Child Protective Services for investigation.
However, when an allegation of child abuse involves a school employee or volunteer in an educational setting, the reporting process follows requirements outlined by NYS Education Law. Depending on who is making the allegation (child, parent, or staff member), the report must be filed with the school building administrator, superintendent and/or law enforcement authorities.
In the case of Hilton elementary school principal Kirk Ashton, who was recently convicted of sexually abusing 21 boys on school grounds over the course of the past eight years, the reporting process involved law enforcement, not Child Protective Services. The distinction in the response was that Ashton was not a PLR or person legally responsible for the care of the children.
Major Barry Chase with the New York State Police detailed the process at a press conference following the arrest of Ashton. “These allegations,” said Chase, “were reported to the NYS Child Abuse Hotline, which then provided the information to State Police.”
“Suspected abuse by a school official is a law enforcement issue,” explained Julie Nichols, administrative caseworker for Monroe County Child and Family Services. “Since the Kirk Ashton case did not involve a parent or person legally responsible (as identified by NYS law) as the perpetrator of the abuse,” said Nichols, “CPS would not be the appropriate system response to investigate.”