The Shapes and Sizes of Boundaries: Part 2 – Boundary Violations that Require Reporting

Betsy Bull, Alaska Assistant District Attorney

State of Alaska Assistant District Attorney Betsy Bull has prosecuted dozens of child sexual abuse cases. Sex abuse is wildly under reported, she said, and Alaska school districts are on the front lines of combating it.

The median age of female victims statewide is 17 years old (most common age: 15), and male victims 12 (most common age: 4). This means most sex abuse victims are in the school system.

Sex offenders often don’t stand out, so districts need to be acutely aware of what to look for. Being proactive and providing the resources children need can help prevent sexual abuse from occurring.

Ms. Bull said the best tool is reporting what you observe. That’s why the reporting law includes teachers, principals, and superintendents as mandatory reporters. School board members are not mandatory reporters, but anyone can make a report in good faith, and in doing so in good faith you are immune from civil or criminal liability.

If you have “reasonable cause” to suspect something “might be” the case, do not investigate first before reporting it. The law says a report must be made immediately. If you’re not sure if it’s sexual abuse, it’s best to report it and let the professionals—OCS and law enforcement—determine if it is.

A school staff member or teacher simply telling their supervisor or administrator does not let you off the hook. School districts can face liability issues if abuse goes unreported to proper authorities.

What must be reported? Physical injury or neglect, mental injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or maltreatment of a child under 18. Neglect means failure to provide necessary food, care, clothing, shelter or medical attention for a child. Sex offense is defined as sexual abuse of a minor, sexual assault (an element of force without consent), online enticement, and indecent exposure.

Bull concluded by encouraging attendees to believe children. If a child tells you something happened, that is evidence. You don’t need video, photos, etc. to prove it. Grooming can lead to abuse, she said. Our job as educators is to report, not investigate.

Betsy Bull Slides


The information provided by presenters during the 2020 AASB Law & Policy Day, and included here, is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If related legal advice is desired, please contact your attorney.