Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect - Tennessee

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Professionals Required to Report
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-1-403; 37-1-605

Persons required to report include the following:

  • Physicians, osteopaths, medical examiners, chiropractors, nurses, hospital personnel, or other health or mental health professionals
  • Teachers, other school officials or personnel, or daycare center workers
  • Other professional child care, foster care, residential, or institutional workers 
  • Social workers 
  • Practitioners who rely solely on spiritual means for healing 
  • Judges or law enforcement officers
  • Neighbors, relatives, or friends
  • Authority figures at community facilities, including any facility used for recreation or social assemblies or for educational, religious, social, health, or welfare purposes, including, but not limited to, facilities operated by schools, the Boy or Girl Scouts, the YMCA or YWCA, the Boys and Girls Club, or church or religious organizations
  • Other persons 

Training Requirements for Mandatory Reporters

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-1-408; 49-6-1601

The Department of Children's Services (DCS) shall develop guidelines on the best practices for identifying and reporting signs of child abuse, child sexual abuse, and human trafficking in which the victim is a child. The Department of Education shall use the guidelines to identify child abuse training programs appropriate for teachers. The programs identified by the Department of Education must train teachers on the common signs of child abuse, child sexual abuse, and human trafficking in which the victim is a child; how to identify children at risk of abuse, sexual abuse, or human trafficking; maintenance of professional and appropriate relationships with students; and the requirements for reporting suspected child abuse and sexual misconduct.

Each local education agency (LEA) and each public charter school shall ensure that employees working directly with students of the respective LEA or public charter school complete a child abuse training program identified by the Department of Education or a training program that meets the guidelines established by DCS as part of the employee's annual in-service training. Each LEA and each public charter school shall annually report its compliance with this section to the Department of Education.

Each LEA and each public charter school shall ensure that all school officials and employees working directly with students of the respective LEA or public charter school annually complete the child abuse training program required in § 37-1-408.

The Department of Children's Services offers online training for mandatory reporters on its website at Reporting Abuse FAQ & Training. The topics addressed include the following:

  • What is child abuse and neglect
  • Who must report child abuse
  • Information that needs to be included in a report
  • Possible indicators of abuse and neglect

The page includes a link to access free online training that provides reporters with information on how to report child abuse and neglect, including how the process works and what reporters can expect as well as policies and laws.

Reporting by Other Persons
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-1-403; 37-1-605

Any person who has knowledge that a child has been harmed by brutality, abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse must report. 

Institutional Responsibility to Report
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-1-403; 49-6-1601

Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any hospital, clinic, school, or other organization responsible for the care of children from developing a specific procedure for internally tracking, reporting, or otherwise monitoring a report made by a member of the organization's staff, including requiring a member of the organization's staff who makes a report to provide a copy of or notice concerning the report to the organization, so long as the procedure does not inhibit, interfere with, or otherwise affect the duty of a person to make a report as required by law. 

Nothing in this section shall prevent staff of a hospital or clinic from gathering sufficient information, as determined by the hospital or clinic, to make an appropriate medical diagnosis or to provide and document care that is medically indicated and is needed to determine whether to report an incident as defined in this part. Those activities shall not interfere with nor serve as a substitute for any investigation by law enforcement officials or DCS. However, if any hospital, clinic, school, or other organization responsible for the care of children develops a procedure for internally tracking, reporting, or otherwise monitoring a report, the identity of the person who made a report of harm shall be kept confidential. 

Each LEA and each public charter school shall designate a child abuse coordinator and an alternate coordinator for each school. The child abuse coordinator and the alternate coordinator must do the following:

  • Be available for school personnel to share information about suspected child abuse and child sexual abuse
  • Assist school personnel in reporting suspected child abuse and child sexual abuse to law enforcement and DCS 
  • Serve as a liaison between the school, DCS, and law enforcement in child abuse and child sexual abuse investigations
  • Assist law enforcement and DCS personnel by sharing available information regarding suspected child abuse and child sexual abuse

If a child voluntarily discloses information about possible abuse to a schoolteacher, school official, or other school personnel, the person receiving the information from the child must immediately notify the school child abuse coordinator and report the information to DCS and law enforcement. When, however, the alleged abuse involves someone employed by, previously employed by, or otherwise affiliated with the school, the report may be made directly to DCS and law enforcement prior to notifying the school child abuse coordinator. This subdivision does not relieve a schoolteacher, school official, or other school personnel from the duty to report alleged abuse under Federal law.

Standards for Making a Report
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-1-403; 37-1-605

A report is required when any of the following apply:

  • A person has knowledge that a child has been harmed by brutality, abuse, or neglect.
  • A person is called upon to render aid to any child who is suffering from an injury that reasonably appears to have been caused by abuse. 
  • A person knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been sexually abused.
  • A physician diagnoses or treats any sexually transmitted disease in a child aged 13 or younger or diagnoses pregnancy in an unemancipated minor.

If a schoolteacher, school official, or other school personnel has knowledge or reasonable cause to suspect that a child who attends the school may be a victim of child abuse or child sexual abuse sufficient to require reporting pursuant to this section, then the teacher, school official, or other school personnel must follow the procedures outlined in § 49-6-1601.

Privileged Communications
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-1-411; 37-1-614

The spousal privilege as preserved in § 24-1-201, the psychiatrist-patient privilege as set forth in § 24-1-207, and the psychologist-patient privilege as set forth in § 63-11-213 shall not be grounds for excluding evidence regarding harm or the cause of harm to a child in any dependency and neglect proceeding resulting from a report of such harm under § 37-1-403 or a criminal prosecution for severe child abuse.

The privileged quality of communication between spouses and between any professional person and the professional person's patient or client, and any other privileged communication, except that between attorney and client, as such communication relates both to the competency of the witness and to the exclusion of confidential communications, shall not apply to any situation involving known or suspected child sexual abuse and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by this part, failure to cooperate with DCS in its activities pursuant to this part, or failure to give evidence in any judicial proceeding relating to child sexual abuse.

Inclusion of the Reporter's Name in the Report

The reporter is not specifically required by statute to provide their name in the report. 

Disclosure of the Reporter's Identity
Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-1-409; 37-5-107

Except as may be ordered by the juvenile court, the name of any person reporting child abuse or neglect shall not be released to any person, other than employees of DCS or other child protection team members responsible for child protective services, the abuse registry, or the appropriate district attorney general upon subpoena of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, without the written consent of the person reporting.

The reporter's identity shall be irrelevant to any civil proceeding and shall, therefore, not be subject to disclosure by order of any court. This shall not prohibit the issuance of a subpoena to a person reporting child abuse when deemed necessary by the district attorney general or the department to protect a child who is the subject of a report, provided that the fact that the person made the report is not disclosed. 

Except upon presentation of an appropriate court order, nothing in this section shall ever be construed to permit or require DCS to release or disclose the identification of the person making a report of harm.