March 24, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Teacher Must Report Child Abuse Regardless of Circumstances in Which He or She Learns of Abuse

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Heotis v. Colorado State Board of Education on Thursday, March 7, 2019.

Teacher’s License—C.R.S. § 19-3-304(2)(l) Reporting Duties—Constitutionality.

Several months before the expiration of her teacher’s license, Hoetis submitted a renewal application to the Colorado State Board of Education (the Board). The Board denied her application because while Heotis was employed as a public school teacher, she did not report to authorities that her then-husband had sexually abused their daughter. The Board determined her failure to report the abuse was unethical under Colorado’s Teacher Licensing Act, C.R.S. § 22-60.5-107(4) (the Act). An administrative law judge (ALJ) upheld the Board’s decision, and the district court upheld the Board’s final order.

On appeal, Heotis argued that the Act violates due process on its face and as applied because the disciplinary options provided to the Board by the Act are too limited as compared to the greater disciplinary flexibility provided to other licensing boards. The court of appeals found no authority to support the proposition that the greater flexibility in other licensing statues represents a constitutional minimum. Hoetis failed to establish that the Act is unconstitutional.

Hoetis also contended that there was insufficient evidence to support the conclusion that she engaged in unethical behavior. She argued that she was not required to report the abuse of her daughter. C.R.S. § 19-3-304(2)(l) required Heotis, as a public school teacher, and thus a mandatory reporter, to immediately report any known or suspected child abuse or neglect. This duty applies irrespective of the circumstances in which the reporter learns of or suspects abuse or neglect. The statute reflects a moral standard in the community for teachers. Substantial evidence in the record supported the Board’s conclusion that Heotis engaged in unethical conduct through her failure to report because it offended the morals of the community.

Hoetis further argued that she was excused from reporting based on evidence that she suffered from battered woman syndrome. The statute does include an exception for persons suffering from battered woman syndrome. Moreover, there was substantial evidence in the record that Hoetis did not report because she was trying to keep her family together, not because of battered woman syndrome.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Children’s Code Does Not Restrict DA’s Prosecution for Mandatory Reporter Violations

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Berges v. County Court of Douglas County on Thursday, October 6, 2016.

The Children’s Code—Authority of District Attorneys to Prosecute Mandatory Reporters.

Plaintiffs are medical doctors, clinical social workers, and healthcare professionals charged with violating C.R.S. § 19-3-304, under which they are “mandatory reporters” required to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Plaintiffs moved to dismiss the charges, arguing that the district attorney lacked authority to prosecute under C.R.S. § 19-3-206. The county court denied the motions. Plaintiffs filed a complaint under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) seeking review of the county court’s orders. The district court denied all relief and upheld the county court’s determination.

On appeal, plaintiffs contended that C.R.S. § 19-3-206 of the Children’s Code vests county attorneys with exclusive authority to prosecute mandatory reporters for criminal violations of C.R.S. § 19-3-304 because such prosecutions are “proceedings” brought under article 3 of the Children’s Code. The Colorado Court of Appeals concluded that C.R.S. § 19-3-206 does not preclude district attorneys from prosecuting mandatory reporters because C.R.S. § 19-3-304 does not set forth a proceeding under article 3, but simply defines an offense. Criminal prosecutions of that offense do not constitute article 3 proceedings.

The judgment was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Threatening Statements Not Protected by Psychologist-Patient Privilege

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re People v. Kailey on Monday, June 23, 2014.

Who May Not Testify Without Consent—CRS § 13-90-107(1)(g)—Civil Liability—Mental Health Providers—Duty to Warn—CRS § 13-21-117(2).

In this original CAR 21 proceeding, the Supreme Court held that if a mental health treatment provider believes that statements made by a patient during a therapy session threaten imminent physical violence against a specific person or persons, and accordingly trigger that provider’s legal duty to warn under CRS §13-21-117(2), the patient’s threatening statements are not protected by the psychologist–patient privilege provided by CRS § 13-90-107(1)(g). Consequently, the Court also held that the trial court erred when it excluded threatening statements made by a patient to a mental health treatment provider on the ground that the statements were barred by the psychologist–patient privilege. The rule was made absolute and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

Summary and full case available here.