Welcome to the second post for the blog mini-series: Distance Learning Safety Protocols for the Educator and the Student. This mini-series was created to address various safety aspects of distance learning, including grooming, signs of child abuse, student medical emergencies, cyberbullying, and managing the online classroom. These blog posts can be used to help school districts address potential risks. Check out the blog for other posts in the series.

Distance Learning has changed the way a school district monitors and oversees student activities. Actions that may easily be detected in-person may not be as easy to see in the online environment. Even though many educators are not physically with their students, many school district employees are still mandated reporters and have a duty to report signs of child abuse or neglect while teaching in the online environment.  

School districts can protect students by creating additional awareness for school district employees on the possible indicators of abuse and neglect, including:

  • A sudden change in a student’s behavior
  • Loud sounds such as yelling, arguing, or other commotion in the background during instruction
  • A student appears frightened or nervous when someone enters the room they are in
  • A student is not participating or engaging in learning activities
  • A student exhibits unusual behaviors
  • When engaging in communications with the parent about a student’s lack of participation or ability to complete classwork, the parent displays little concern or solely places blame on the student
  • A student appears overly withdrawn or passive
  • A student’s personal hygiene and/or surroundings appear unkept
  • A student is consistently absent from the virtual classroom or not submitting any school work
  • A student is exhibiting signs of injuries or illnesses requiring medical treatment
  • School district employees observe harsh physical discipline
  • A student appears to be lacking adult supervision
  • Parents demand unachievable performance from a student

Communication during distance learning is crucial, and school district employees should regularly engage with students and parents just as they would if they were providing in-person instruction.  When speaking with parents, school district employees should be aware of any resources and support that the school district may have to offer.  School districts should also encourage employees to discuss any concerns immediately with the school counselor or school administrator unless the school district employee reasonably suspects that the student is experiencing abuse or neglect. If the school district employee reasonably suspects child abuse or neglect is occurring, they must immediately make a report to the police department, sheriff’s department, county probation department, or county welfare department. School district employees should also follow all school district policies and procedures regarding mandated reporting. For questions, contact PRISM Risk Control.