Dawson County’s student health coordinator has been tapped to serve on a state panel charged with developing policies for handling reports of child abuse by school employees.
Jeannie Edwards will serve on the Governor’s Working Group on Abuse in the Educational Setting, which includes law enforcement personnel and veteran school officials.
“I am thrilled to be a part of this task force,” Edwards said. “Protecting children from abuse is just as important as keeping them healthy.”
The group’s first meeting will be held soon.
“I am very glad to have an opportunity as a school nurse to offer guidance to this council, because the role of a school nurse is often critical in abuse investigations,” Edwards said. “... More often than not, students have a trusting relationship with their school nurse.
“Nurses are very attune to alleged abuse, whether it be physical or sexual. So having a nurse as a part of this group will allow the voice of a perspective to be heard that can help develop policies to protect our children.”
The group’s formation comes at the recommendation of the Office of the Child Advocate. Gov. Sonny Perdue, who made the announcement Aug. 14, has charged the panel with developing specific child abuse reporting and response procedures that every school district in the state can follow.
Perdue said in a statement that “any accusations of abuse by school personnel against children must be addressed strongly, rapidly and appropriately.”
While the child advocate’s report found the state’s child abuse reporting and response laws adequate, it also found that a lack of clear responsibility for addressing allegations of abuse sometimes results in ineffective response.
The task forces’s recommendations will include processes for parents and students to report abuse. They will also cover procedures for school officials to use when taking action against accused employees, as well as reporting the incident to law enforcement, system leadership and the Professional Standards Commission.
Special attention will be given to handling allegations of abuse in special settings, such as those involving special educational programs.
“Cases involving child abuse need to be taken seriously, and the forming of this group will provide guidance for the state regarding such situations,” Edwards said.
“With the different backgrounds and perspectives represented on this council, I feel certain that we will be able to come up with a plan that will provide direction for the state to follow to ensure our schools are on the same page.”