The Report on Mandated Reporters

Echo Thorpe, Staff Writer

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Mandated reporters are a role that has been filled by varying students, faculty, and administration since Title IX was first implemented in 1972. According to the Title IX Compliance Guide, “Title IX prevents discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities operated by recipients of federal financial assistance.” This has been an institution intended to protect students; however, the question stands as to whether or not mandated reporting causes students to avoid talking about difficult issues. It’s no secret being a student in college can be tough and the need to get things off one’s chest is common. RAs, peer tutors, or faculty/administration can take that nurturing role a student might need, making them an outlet who one may vent to. But how comfortable does a student feel when a report may be on the line, and how do mandated reporters feel about their role?

In a recent interview, Title IX coordinator Dan Cook-Huffman, the man mandated reporters actually report to, stated that mandated reporting, otherwise known as the Responible Employee Agreement, originated as a requirement to report child abuse. He provided a copy of the Title IX Compliance Guide which further specified the need to report sexual misconduct, sexual violence, or gender-based discrimination. In regards to drinking, drug use, etc. he was insistent on the Medical Amnesty Policy, which protects a student who has been drinking or using drugs if they were to go to a mandated reporter to seek help for a friend. This policy is a Juniata specific extension, the state law only covering alcohol, while Juniata extends to drugs.

He agreed that the title of Mandated Reporter scares students and mentioned, “That’s why I’m so happy to have these conversations and do the educational work.” In regards to a student that winds up in a report, they are not forced to press charges, merely given information and resources to help them. He continues to clarify that these reports are important for the crime statistics Juniata is required to provide.

When discussing mandated reporting with student reporters, we learn that they often use their best judgement. Will Conrad is the CA (Community Advisor) of East. As everyone can imagine, this is no easy task, and with two previous years of being an RA under his belt, he has plenty of insight on reporting. He specifies that he reports when he believes a student appears to be a danger to themselves or others, instances of domestic violence, and Title IX violations. When asked if the belief that students cannot speak to RAs due to getting in trouble for drinking or partying he was quick to state that, “That is absolutely incorrect. We at res life and other mandated reporters know you get drunk, we don’t care. We care far more about people’s safety than whether or not an 18 year old per say had a beer when something unfortunate happened.” How much control a mandated reporter has in their reports appears more gray-area than one would initially picture, though interviews made situations like sexual assault appear rather black and white. The main objective is always getting resources and support to those who need them, so things like alcohol use isn’t that high a priority unless you’re overdoing it, which, again, is subjective, leaving the reporter to determine when it should be reported.

Additionally, he mentioned he only really had to report about once a year. He assured that he always makes it clear that he is a mandated reporter and feels that it’s important to maintain that clarity. This was agreed upon by First Year Foundations Facilitator, Taylor Knoble. “I think I need to make it really clear that I am a mandated reporter.” she says, when asked what her responsibilities as one are. She continued to say on the subject that “You do have an ethical responsibility to make sure your students do get the help that they need. We’re not necessarily trained to deal with a sexual assault so it’s important we get them the help they need.” She, as well as Will Conrad and Dan Cook-Huffman, believed it was very important to direct students to confidential resources that are available, such as the SPoT, campus chaplains, and the health center.

A few students added to the discussion on mandated reporting. Ellie Stepansky, a freshman here at Juniata,when questioned whether she had ever disclose something to a mandated reporter, stated, “No, I’ve never. Personally, I don’t feel very comfortable speaking with someone who is required to report what I say. I don’t know who it’s going to.” She revises, however, that she would speak with one, given a specific situation and that reporting is good in theory. Students were also asked if there should be more information about mandated reporting; however, Audrey McNeely, a sophomore at Juniata, said “ I think it’s enough that a mandated reporter lets you know they’re a mandated reporter.”

All-in-all, it was found that there was a reluctance towards utilizing mandated reporting in the general student body, though many agreed in the importance of it on campus. The reporters themselves, as well as our Title IX coordinator advocated for more information and open discussion of the subject. Regardless of the student’s or faculty’s background with reporting, it was enlightening to discuss them with the individuals in this article. Dan Cook-Huffman also ensures all Juniata students that he is open to discussing these things with everyone should you have more questions.

 

 

BEHIND THE STORY

  1. Why did we report on this?
    • Echo feels like mandated reporters have a lot of stigma surrounding them without many solid facts, so they wanted to instill a bit more trust in this group on campus.
  2. How did we get the information to report on this?
    • Echo utilized interviews and viewed some Title IX documentation for this article.
  3. How can the reader get more information on the topic covered?
    • Readers may get in contact with Echo (thorpej18@juniata.edu) with any further questions for Dean Dan Cook-Huffman about Title IX and mandated reporters.
  4. Did we miss something?
    • Let us know! Contact Echo (thorpej18@juniata.edu) with any further questions, comments, or concerns about this article, or to suggest further articles about this topic.