The Fourth Department, reversing (modifying) Supreme Court, determined that the teacher (Grunwald) accused of sexual abuse of a student in this Child Victims Act suit was not a person legally responsible for the child’s care within the meaning of the Social Services Law. Therefore the defendant school district did not have a duty to report suspected abuse by the teacher:
… [P]laintiff alleged that Pioneer violated its statutory reporting duties under Social Services Law former § 413 by failing to report the abuse of plaintiff by Grunwald. Social Services Law former § 413, however, applied only where there was “reasonable cause to suspect that a child . . . [was] an abused or maltreated child” … . The Social Services Law incorporated the definition of “abused child” in the Family Court Act … , which in turn defined that term, as relevant here, as a child harmed by a “parent or other person legally responsible for [the child’s] care” … .
Under Family Court Act article 10, however, the definition “should not be construed to include [abuse by] persons who assume fleeting or temporary care of a child such as . . . those persons who provide extended daily care of children in institutional settings, such as teachers” … . Inasmuch as Grunwald, based on the allegations in the complaint, could not be the subject of a report for purposes of Social Services Law former § 413, Pioneer was not required to report any suspected abuse by him … . Solly v Pioneer Cent. Sch. Dist., 2023 NY Slip Op 05814, Fourth Dept 11-15-23
Practice Point: The Social Services Law obligates a person legally responsible for the care of a child to report suspected child abuse. Because a teacher is not a person legally responsible for the care of a student, the school district is not subject to that reporting requirement.