PROVIDENCE, RI (WPRI) – Top education officials in Rhode Island are alarmed by a recent drop in reports of child abuse and neglect, saying districts need to strengthen family support and bring students back to school. in-person learning.
Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said on Tuesday she was concerned about the recent drop in reports to RI’s Department of Children, Youth and Families, which began when the State switched to distance learning in the spring.
“This is one of the many reasons we wanted the kids to come back in person,” Infante-Green told 12 News. “Their instruction and education is number 1, but schools are not just a place of learning, this is where we catch a lot of these cases. It is a sanctuary for many children.
The concerns came a day after a Target 12 investigation showed that reports of child abuse and neglect fell nearly 50% in April, the first full month of distance learning. Advocates fear that distance learning will mean children have less interactions with adults outside of their immediate families. And many of the reports of child abuse and neglect come from adults in schools.
“These kids depend on us in these schools,” Matthew Davis, Cranston’s school resources manager, told Target 12 for his report.
Providence Public Schools Department Superintendent Harrison Peters, who oversees the state’s largest school district, took note of the Target 12 inquiry at a Providence City Council meeting on Tuesday. He said the district must do everything in its power to ensure it is in contact with students who are not physically in schools.
“We want to make sure that we are doing our part as a school service and supporting families if they are having problems,” said Peters. “We know attendance is important, so we’re not going to stop until we can connect with as many students as we can, and we can get that number as close to zero as possible.”
Rhode Island public schools have struggled to make in-person learning work this fall as some schools have had to deal with the emergence of coronavirus cases, while others have so far chosen to s ” stick to distance learning for health and safety reasons.
Governor Gina Raimondo has pushed for districts to return to in-person learning, even publicly criticizing some local school districts for choosing not to opt for it. On Wednesday, Raimondo said there were around 100,000 students learning in person, compared to around 50,000 students learning remotely.
“There is no data to suggest that it is safer for teachers and students as they still contract the virus at similar and higher rates than at school,” Raimondo argued in favor of the learning in person at its weekly press conference. “Children at home are more likely to be abused and neglected. [and] falling behind in school.
The decline in reports of child abuse and neglect from March continued until the end of the school year last spring. And while state officials interviewed by Target 12 wouldn’t definitively say that the end of in-person learning directly caused the reduction in reports of child abuse and neglect, lawyers and medical officials have little to do with it. doubt that the two problems are related.
“I wish we could celebrate this decline,” Rhode Island Kids Count Executive Director Elizabeth Burke Bryant told Target 12 for her report. “What this data really shows us is that we are hearing less about suspected cases of abuse and neglect.”
On Tuesday, Infante-Green called the decline “not a good sign.”
“It’s really important to keep children safe,” she said.
- The DCYF’s free hotline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The hotline is dedicated to receiving reports of abuse and neglect. The number is 1-800-RI-CHILD (1-800-742-4453). All calls are recorded.
- The toll-free number for the new screening and intervention unit is 1-888-RI-FAMILY or 1-888-743-2659
Kim Kalunian contributed to this story.