Underreported child abuse cases amid pandemic, local schools response during remote learning

SALISBURY, Md. – Often times teachers are the first to report at-home abuse.

But as remote learning has taken over and face-to-face interactions have become limited, some experts say many cases may be going undetected.

Child abuse reports are down in the state of Maryland, but again that doesn’t mean the abuse itself isn’t happening.

Psychologist, Dr. Kathy Seifert, argues there could be much more going on behind closed doors.

“Often child abuse and neglect is something that happens at home or in the neighborhood and so the numbers are down because so many times it’s going to be a teacher or counselor at school to report the problem,” said Dr. Seifert.

Director of Student Services for Dorchester County Public Schools, Kirk Howie, tells 47 ABC that despite not having the in-person classes, educators are still taking precautions.

Part of those precautions include individual virtual meetings, home visitations, and regular phone calls.

“Continuing to keep that line of communication open and as a frequent and available as possible is a huge priority for us,” said Howie.

However, Dr. Seifert worries that once students return to the classroom, we’ll see a spike in reports. Or worse effects of the abuse will show in student behavior.

“If you treat acting out as a punishable offense or a problem, you don’t solve the problem because the abuse and the neglect have to stop. So we may see when we get back in school, children acting out,” said Dr. Seifert.

Regardless of concerns for a spike, local educators say they’re doing what they can.

“We have continued to keep all of our avenues open with all of our agencies so I don’t expect there to be any drop off, we are prepared and ready to assist our students,” said Howie.

If you suspect any type of abuse… it’s important to report it. The number for child protective services in Wicomico County is (410)-713-3900.

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