SAN DIEGO - Parents said teachers and employees are not reporting cases of abuse inside the San Diego Unified School District.
Team 10 found 20 cases where mandated reporters – that's any teacher or other school employee – did not report possible abuse to the right authorities. But parents believe there are hundreds of cases going unreported.
Christine Pinkham believes an unreported case of abuse happened to her teenage son, Nathan. He has cerebral palsy, and communicates often by using his iPad.
"Close, yeah, we are really close," Pinkham said of her son.
Pinkham said Nathan was attending Mission Bay High School in September when she got a call there was a problem with his feeding machine.
"It was at 400 milliliters … it should be at 100," Pinkham said.
At 400 milliliters, the worst thing that could happen is that his stomach could rupture and he could bleed to death, she said.
Pinkham believes it was neglect to let that happen, and she believes it should have been reported to Child Protective Services.
According to a letter from the school, it was not reported.
"I felt it was necessary to investigate the incident," Pinkham said.
Under California state law, all cases of possible abuse or neglect in schools must be made to a child protective agency. If a report is not made, Child Welfare Services sends letters to the person who failed to act.
Team 10 found 20 "failure to report" letters sent to people in the San Diego Unified School District last year.
"It's your duty … if you are working with a child, then you need to report," said Susan Hopps-Tatum.
She is part of a task force working to make the district more responsive to abuse claims.
"It's a national epidemic of not reporting, of looking the other way and kids continuing to get hurt," she said.
Pinkham is fighting too -- to make sure Nathan and all other kids are safe when they are at school.
"Nathan is my hero because he's happy and they took his happiness away and I'm working really hard to get his happiness back," she said.
Failure to report abuse in school is a misdemeanor under the law.
A district spokesperson told Team 10 Friday afternoon Pinkham's case was reported, and referred to child protective services. The spokesperson said the case was dismissed by that agency.
The district declined to comment further on any case regarding mandated reporters, citing employee confidentiality and federal law.
The spokesperson also said the district was not aware of the 20 failure to report letters.
Here is the district's full statement:
San Diego Unified School District holds mandatory training with all school staff members at the beginning of every year. The Administrative Procedure on this subject is available online. (Mobile users: http://bit.ly/19DnukB)
Per state law, and district policy, Mrs. Pinkham's case would be reported to either San Diego Police or the County of San Diego Child Welfare Services. Those agencies should be contacted for comment.
Our staff takes their responsibility to report suspected child abuse cases very seriously. These cases are investigated and prosecuted through San Diego Police or the County of San Diego Child Welfare Services. This procedure is covered by California Penal Code, including sections 11165-11167.
Please contact those agencies for comment on this issue.
The law cited by the district can be found here. (Mobile users: http://bit.ly/1eugx9w)