- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2015

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (AP) - A teacher and a guidance counselor claim the North Platte school district violated state law in directing them to contact parents before reporting future cases of suspected child abuse.

Nebraska law requires doctors, nurses, school employees and social workers to report suspected abuse and neglect, and failure to do so could result in a jail sentence and a $500 fine.

Middle school special education teacher Christie Copper and school counselor Stephen Spiehs filed a complaint Monday in Lincoln County District Court, asking it to rule that the district can’t set conditions on making the reports.

“The school district’s directive … is contrary to Nebraska law and potentially places children in danger,” said Scott Norby, their attorney.

The dispute stems from a student who arrived at school in late March with a scratch on one side of his face, a black, soot-like substance on the other side of his face and unkempt hair. The student also appeared thirsty and hungry.

Copper and Spiehs said they contacted a school resource officer and then the state’s child welfare agency. The school’s principal later emailed the two employees, saying that the child’s father was “extremely displeased” about getting a phone call from police without notification.

They said the principal told them that in future cases of suspected abuse or neglect that they should contact the child’s parents unless the child was in immediate danger.

Larry Ramaekers, a leader with the school district, told the Lincoln Journal Star that legal counsel advised him not to comment except to say that the district doesn’t have a policy requiring teachers to call parents before reporting abuse or neglect.

He noted though that district policy does require a supervisor or administrator be notified before a report is made.

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