We all read the headline about Terry Starr being charged with making false child abuse accusations, and we all thought the same thing – aren’t principals mandatory reporters? Don’t they have to report child abuse even if they’re not the one to sort out whether or not it happened?
Yes, but that is not what Terry Starr allegedly did.
Authorities say that Starr sent letters to Elk Rapids School Administrators saying that a school employee committed criminal activity.
He’s charged with false report of a felony, intentional false report of child abuse and criminal slander.
False report of a felony
Making a false report of a felony is a violation of MCL 750.411a. The law says:
(1) Except as otherwise provided in subsections (2) and (3), a person who intentionally makes a false report of the commission of a crime, or intentionally causes a false report of the commission of a crime to be made, to a peace officer, police agency of this state or of a local unit of government, 9-1-1 operator, or any other governmental employee or contractor or employee of a contractor who is authorized to receive reports of a crime, knowing the report is false, is guilty of a crime as follows:…
Here’s the problem, though. If Starr sent the reports to school administrators, that doesn’t fit the definition of making a report to a person authorized to receive reports. Unless of course he sent it to the school liaison officer. So depending on the facts, this charge fails.
Intentional false report of child abuse
Intentional false report of child abuse is a violation of MCL 722.633. The law says that:
A person who intentionally makes a false report of child abuse or neglect under this act knowing that the report is false is guilty of a crime…
The statute itself doesn’t answer the question of whether telling a mandatory reporter is making a false report of child abuse or neglect. Another statute, MCL 722.623, describes making a report as contacting centralized intake and making a formal report – not simply telling a third party about it. So this crime may not even fit Starr’s alleged actions.
I’ve never heard of criminal slander and I can’t find any MCL or common law on it.
Is it a crime to knowingly accuse someone of child abuse? Is it a crime to make a false accusation of child abuse to a school employee knowing that they’re a mandated reporter? Good question.