North Carolina Statutes for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse

By Seth H. Langson

Many people in North Carolina think that all child sexual abuse must be reported. Unfortunately, that is not true.

The confusion stems from the fact that there are two sections of Chapter 7B of the North Carolina General Statutes that must be read together in order to understand our reporting laws.

Chapter 7B section 301 of the North Carolina General Statutes (N.C. G.S.) reads, in part, as follows:

“7B­301 Duty to report abuse, neglect, dependency, or death due to maltreatment. (a) Any person or institution who has cause to suspect that any juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, as defined by G.S. 7B­101, or has died as the result of maltreatment, shall report the case of that juvenile to the director of the department of social services in the county where the juvenile resides or is found. The report may be made orally, by telephone, or in writing.”

That seems simple enough. All abuse must be reported. Yet, the “as defined by G.S 7B­101” qualifies that only if the perpetrator is a parent, guardian, custodian or caretaker must the abuse be reported. This focus on the relationship of the abuser to the victim, leaves many child molestation victims without the protection they deserve. For example, sexual abuse by relatives, clergy, coaches, neighbors and friends may legally go unreported.

Why should the obligation to report the suspected sex abuse of a minor be defined by whom abused the child? Regardless of the nature of the abuser, the child has been seriously harmed and all children who come in contact with the abuser remain at risk.

Some additional protection is provided to students by a different North Carolina law. N.C. G .S Chapter 115C places additional mandatory reporting obligations on schools. Yet, these requirements are also narrow in scope. Section 288(g) of Chapter 115C mandates that principals report all child sexual abuse by an “employee that occurs on school property”. Therefore, if a principal knows of abuse by a teacher with a student that does not occur on school property, the principal is not required by law to report this. Nor does a principal need to report student upon student abuse. This can and sometimes does lead to cover ups.

There is a very simple solution to this problem: Amend N.C. G.S 7B­301 so that it requires any person or organization to report all reasonably suspected child abuse. We need to change our reporting law to protect our children.

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Seth Langson is a Charlotte attorney who is regarded as a pioneer in the representation of sexual abuse survivors. After 30 years of working on behalf of victims, he now devotes his efforts to preventing sex abuse through child advocacy, education and systemic changes. He received his undergraduate degree from Hobart College and law degree from Boston College. He has been rated AV (the highest rating) by Martindale-Hubbell.