The Urban community’s relationship to mandated reporting

Zoe Sokatch

What is mandated reporting? The question seems to be the epicenter of conversation when it comes to sexual assault in high schools. Mandated reporting, as defined by the Urban school’s Sexual Assault Reporting Protocol, is the reporting of “information that leads [Urban employees] to suspect that a minor has been subjected to sexual or physical abuse, including sexual assault.” 

Article 2.5 of the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act states that one must have “reasonable” suspicion to place a report. Looking at how reasonable suspicion comes into play at Urban, Riley Maddox, grade dean and math teacher, said, “adults at Urban have the luxury of consulting with the health department or counseling department for a second opinion around their level of suspicion.” This means that teachers at Urban are very deliberate and careful when it comes to mandated reporting. “Any teacher is going to err on the side of caution if a situation that comes to them peaks concern and they are unsure of the level of reasonable suspicion teachers will go to the councilor.”

After making a report, Urban protocol states that “employees are also required by law to keep mandated reports confidential, so they may not be able to inform students or their parents if they make a report.” 

 Mandated reporters who do not make the required report are in danger of legal punishment. According to the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Law, failing to report is a “misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail or by a $1,000 fine or by both a fine and imprisonment.” 

While the policy is in place to protect students subjected to sexual or physical abuse, at times the legality of mandated reporting can restrict students’ ability to discuss their feelings and needs.

On April 25th, Urban hosted an all-school meeting dedicated to sexual assault. The all-school meeting was led by the Managing Attorney of the Sexual Assault and Child Assault Unit of San Francisco, Jean Roland. Roland presented a detailed slide show defining different types of sexual violence and the legal consequences of each. This conversation garnered mixed reactions from the student body and sparked a reflection on how students would like Urban to balance honoring students’ emotional well-being and preserving the legal obligations of the school. 


“I think that if it was a more survivor-centric conversation, it would be the best,” said Mia Fessel ‘25, referring to the ASM with Roland. To Fessel, it is important to center the survivor and preserve the emotional side of the issue. “It’s more of an emotional problem rather than [a] legal thing,” said Fessel. “I feel safe when I know that other people [realize] that it’s an emotional thing rather than like, oh, you should just like get them arrested.” 

Urban is not the only school trying to balance emotion and obligation. According to an article written in 2015 in the PennState Law journal by Jill C. Engle, many colleges face the same challenge. “College administrators are grappling with how to balance that victim sensitivity with their legal and social obligations,” writes Engle. However, Engle claims that the world is becoming more sensitive to victims in recent years, writing, “Over the last few decades, federal anti-crime laws and even Supreme Court decisions have increasingly recognized that sensitivity to victims’ needs and preferences is crucial.” Fessel hopes to see more of this increase in sensitivity at Urban.

“I think in a way being a mandated reporter makes it easier for an adult at the school to occupy an emotionally supportive role,” said Maddox. “If a teacher makes a report they are not themselves responsible for… making a decision of what should happen or even necessarily directing both the legal and extra legal follow up,” said Maddox. “In a way, it helps that point of contact at Urban know that they are doing the right thing to formally support the survivor and sets them up to be a caring community member.”

 Fessel believes that the space held after the ASM for students feeling too emotionally impacted to attend B period was a successful example of feeling supported by Urban. Eve Young ‘23 shared a similar sentiment saying, “the space after, where it’s majority students and a teacher, like Shafia, who is kind of just there to help and organize it. That is actually very helpful.” Young continued by saying, “Having a space that is all students just so they can support each other, that’s kind of like the only way to get around the perimeter of mandated reporting,” Both Fessel and Young agree that the school is limited in what it can do to help students and instead both elect to rely on students to create community and support for each other when it comes to this heavy topic.

Evie Hidysmith, pandemic coordinator and academic tutor, suggests that the school provide spaces for students to come and heal without having to talk. “I feel like there was more of a space at Urban for processing through art when I was a student,” she said. “We could have a space to process things where you don’t even have to talk necessarily about specifics and just be together and make something together.”