Principal Put on Leave Shows Dangers of ChildLine

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jun 03, 2022 | 0 Comments

Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services (DHS) surely did not intend for its ChildLine to put well-intended educators at risk of losing their jobs and even facing jail time. Yet, the case of a principal in Pittsburgh who was put on leave after trying to break up a fight shows how abuse hotlines can have an unfair and outsized impact on regular, well-meaning people.

ChildLine Explained

Pennsylvania DHS describes ChildLine as “part of a mandated statewide child protective services program designed to accept child abuse referrals and general child well-being concerns and transmit the information quickly to the appropriate investigating agency.” Open 24/7, ChildLine is built upon good intentions, but we've also seen its unintended consequences.

The Problem With ChildLine

A case involving Pittsburgh's Perry Traditional Academy illustrates one glaring problem with the state's ChildLine. Individuals are losing their jobs and reputations based on tips that simply should not be reported.

In April, Principal Robert Frioni was placed on leave “pending an investigation” by the school. The investigation revolves around Frioni's role in breaking up a fight. A female student was engaged in a fight with a security officer, and Frioni allegedly placed the student in a headlock as a means of defusing the situation.

This is not the picture of child abuse that Pennsylvanians envision when they think of resources like ChildLine. A high school student actively engaged in a physical altercation with a security officer is not who ChildLine is meant to protect.

There are many cases of abuse that, without a resource for safe disclosure, would go unreported. We must continue to protect victims who most need a reporting hotline. When ChildLine and similar resources are misused to report questionable or even baseless claims of abuse, we compromise the integrity of ChildLine.

What Are Administrators Witnessing a Fight to Do?

We are not here to defend Principal Robert Frioni's chosen de-escalation tactics—we don't have enough information to make a judgment on such matters.

However, we do know that administrators attempting to break up fights are, in most cases, not engaging in abuse. We should also consider the consequence of levying abuse claims against educators with the noble intention of breaking up a physical altercation.

If an administrator or teacher is fearful that intervention will lead to a ChildLine complaint against them, what are they to do? Allow students to continue fighting, potentially harming each other more seriously than if the administrators had stepped in?

The ease of reporting to ChildLine has put those with a primal protective instinct in an extremely difficult position. While a statewide hotline for reporting child abuse is absolutely necessary, it is clear that ChildLine is being misused and—in a sad irony—even abused.

Contact an Attorney If You're Facing Harm From a ChildLine Complaint

A complaint to ChildLine can eviscerate your reputation. Even worse, you may face legal consequences because of a misunderstanding, fabrication, or outright lie.

Attorney Joseph D. Lento and The Lento Law Firm fight for those victimized by unfounded ChildLine tips. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or contact us online to discuss your case.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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