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What are potential charges if ABSS officials knew of allegations, but did not report them?

North Carolina law outlines mandatory reporting requirements for alleged crimes against juveniles that involve alleged abuse, neglect, violence, or indecent liberties – and convictions for violating those requirements can carry significant prison time.

The Alamance News has been told by those knowledgeable about the investigation that certain school-level ABSS officials may have known of the allegations about sexual offenses by Southern Middle School teacher Ivan Danilo Ardila-Perez not acted to inform their superiors and/or law enforcement (see related story, this edition).

North Carolina has multiple statutes requiring any person 18 or older, who believes that a child may be a victim of one of more than two dozen types of sexual offenses, to immediately file a report with law enforcement.

A separate provision in the state’s public education statutes require school principals and other school officials to immediately report to law enforcement alleged crimes against juveniles, including: serious personal injury, sexual assault, sexual offense, rape, kidnapping, indecent liberties with a minor, assault involving the use of a weapon, possession of a firearm in violation of the law, possession of a weapon in violation of the law, or possession of [an illegal] controlled substance.

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North Carolina’s mandatory reporting law – enacted by the General Assembly in 1971 – was amended in 2013 to establish a criminal penalty for failure to report certain crimes against juveniles.

Failure to report such crimes is now classified as a Class I misdemeanor, with a conviction carrying a jail sentence of up to 120 days, plus fines and court costs. The statute specifically makes it a crime for any person or institution to knowingly or wantonly fail to make a report when the “reporting law” requires one, or to prevent another person from making a report, according to an analysis by the School of Government at UNC.

In some cases, failure to report the allegations to law enforcement “may place a person’s professional credentials or employment in jeopardy,” according to the analysis for the School of Government, which cites several earlier court cases in which school officials (including an assistant superintendent who worked in Durham County during the mid-1980s) who have been convicted for failing to report crimes against juveniles.

House bill filed in March would strengthen penalties for sex offenses against students
Meanwhile, a bill introduced in the state house in March would strengthen the penalties for certain school employees who are convicted of committing certain sex offenses against students, as well as failing to report misconduct toward children. State representative Dennis Riddell, whose district includes Alamance County, has signed on as a cosponsor.

The modified penalties would apply to: teachers; school administrators; student teachers; school safety officers; coaches; other school employees at least four years older than the victim, effective December 1, 2023, according to the bill.

If passed, the bill would make all crimes of sexual activity with a student and/or indecent liberties with a student a Class G felony, carrying a maximum punishment of up to 47 months in prison, effective December 1, 2023, according to a bill summary prepared by a staff attorney for the General Assembly.

Currently, state law classifies indecent liberties with a student and/or indecent liberties with a child as a Class I felony, with convictions carrying a maximum prison term up to 24 months, according to the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission.

Currently, state law classifies failure to report such crimes to law enforcement as a Class I misdemeanor. The bill filed in the state house in March would make it a felony for school administrators and other school employees to fail to report certain crimes, particularly sexual offenses, against students, effective December 1, 2023.

Misconduct directly related to a school employee’s office or employment could also result in forfeiture of future retirement benefits, under the bill.

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