Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Monday, January 2, 2017

School Assault Reporting Requirements for School Districts

We've received a few questions about the new school reporting requirements and how they relate to the Missouri assault laws.

We briefly wrote about these requirements in our post about the juvenile justice system, but we want to highlight this information.

When kids commit certain crimes at school, their behavior has to be reported to police. 
The two big statutes here are RSMo 160.261 and RSMo 167.117. Here's a chart summarizing what needs to be reported:

Teachers and Principals' Reporting Requirements
RSMo 167.117 has not changed. This law requires teachers and principals to report. Teachers are supposed to report to principals, and principals are supposed to report to police and the superintendent.

The behaviors to be reported are:
  • Assault in the First Degree
  • Assault in the Second Degree
  • Assault in the Third Degree
  • Sexual Assault
  • Deviate Sexual Assault
Thanks to comma usage, this law could be read in one of two ways. First (and the one that makes the most sense) is that all of these crimes need to happen "against a pupil or school employee, while on school property, including a school bus in service on behalf of the district, or while involved in school activities."
Another way to read the law is that these crimes could happen anywhere and need to be reported except Deviate Sexual Assault, which only needs to be reported if it involves school as described in quotes above. This reading doesn't make much sense, especially when reading the definition of Deviate Sexual Intercourse in comparison to the other behaviors, but it's possible. However, this language is not different in 2017 than it was in 2016.

Because RSMo 167.117 has not been updated, it did not change with the assault law changes. The list does not include Assault in the Fourth Degree.
Assault in the Fourth Degree is a misdemeanor assault. It's the same thing as what Assault in the Third Degree used to be. Now, Assault in the Third Degree is a low-level felony assault.

This means that, back in 2016, school staff had to report felony and misdemeanor assaults. Now, because the law was not updated, they do not have to report misdemeanor assaults anymore.

There's another wrinkle to all of this too.
The law allows Assault in the Third Degree to be reported in a special way. Superintendents can make written agreements with police to determine how assaults in the third degree are reported to police, and then staff would have to follow those policies. Based on the law, it appears that these agreements could be pretty flexible; there aren't really any restrictions on how they can work.

So this special reporting arrangement - which was previously available only for misdemeanor assaults - now applies to low-level felony assaults.

The new assault laws have actually decreased reporting requirements for schools when it comes to assaults. Now, districts can make special arrangements with police about how to report low-level felony assaults at school, and districts don't have to report misdemeanor assaults at all.

School Administrators' Reporting Requirements
But what about that other statute, RSMo 160.261?

That law places reporting requirements on school administrators to report to staff members and to law enforcement.
It requires school districts to have policies requiring "school administrators to report acts of school violence to all teachers at the attendance center and, in addition, to other school district employees with a need to know." 

Who "needs to know?" That's defined as school staff who teach or interact with the kid.

OK. But what's an "act of violence?" It means a kid needs to use "physical force" "with the intent to do serious physical injury" to someone else on school property. 
In an earlier post, we discussed the definition of "serious physical injury" and how it is used only for the highest level assaults: Assault in the First and Second Degrees. It's defined as "physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes serious disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part of the body." It's pretty bad.

In short, when it comes to assault, school administrators need to tell staff members when a kid commits Assault 1st or 2nd, not 3rd or 4th. It might be a good idea for school administrators to communicate more than that to staff members, but that's up to school districts to determine.

RSMo 160.261 also requires school administrators to have a policy to report to police. At a minimum, the policy must require administrators to report 25 different crimes to police. That list includes Assault in the First and Second degree, which were included before 2016. It does not include Assault in the Third and Fourth Degrees.

A school district can choose to include more crimes in its policy if it wishes. And, as we just discussed, Assault in the Third Degree is subject to at least a special reporting requirement under RSMo 167.117. Under the law, school administrators do not have to report Assault in the Fourth Degree to police, and they can have a special arrangement to report Assault in the Third Degree to police.

Bottom Line: In 2017, when it comes to assault, school staff and districts have less of a reporting requirement. Districts have the ability to report more crimes or change nothing. But there is no change in the law that requires them to report more assaults.

Here's the link to our story in the St. Louis American story:

Our post about the new assault laws
Our post about the juvenile justice system
Our post about the redefinition of "physical injury"
Our post about the harassment law

To report a suspected issue with how the assault law is implemented, follow this link:

To support the Education Exchange Corps, you can donate at this link:

Elad Gross is a former Assistant Attorney General of Missouri. He graduated from Washington University School of Law.

This blog post is not meant to provide legal advice. If you are in need of legal assistance, please contact an attorney.

Elad Gross, J.D.
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps


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