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Nevada Law: Tattletales – The Obligation to Report a Crime

By Dorothy G Bunce

When I was a child starting school, the teachers would “blow off” any child that complained about the behavior of someone else with the comment, “no one likes a tattletale!” Homer Simpson, in one of the first episodes of this long-running cartoon series, reminds his son that he “must obey the schoolyard law” and not be a tattletale or report the schoolyard bully.

Under Nevada law, every person, not just doctors and teachers, has a legal duty to report violence or sexual offenses against children aged 12 or under.  This law is contained in NRS 202.882. This Nevada law requires everyone with information about a possible crime against a child to report it or risk being charged with a criminal offense themselves.

It is appalling that single mothers leave their children in the care of “boyfriends” that hurt or molest their children in their absence. It is also appalling that teachers and others witnessing schoolyard bullying continue to turn a blind eye to the victimization of children, even with the violence or sexual abuse is by a child upon anothe child.  Under the law, if someone fails to report the abuse to the authorities within 24 hours of seeing an injury or after the child complains of the abuse, the person who is a mere witness also may be charged with a crime.  We must stop making excuses to ourselves and become more vigilent.

We no longer treat children as if they are property. Our society has imposed on all of us the responsibility to protect all children, not just our own, from suspected abuse or neglect. It is a shame that so many people continue to ignore the criminal victimization of children.

I urge all of you to open your eyes to what is going on with the children that come into your life. We can begin by retiring the term “tattletale” as a pejorative or degrading response to a child’s complaint. There can be justice for children only if we, as responsible adults, are willing to speak out and not bury our heads in the sand.

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