School starts in North Alabama in a little less than a month. The National Children's Advocacy Center is worried about child abuse cases going unreported if kids learn virtually instead of in the classroom.
Chris Newlin, Executive Director, said they are monitoring child abuse cases closely. He said with some parents only having days to decide between virtual and in-person school, there isn't one right answer for all families.
"I think it's a really individual decision. I think it's something parents have to look at their unique situation and really have discussions in their house about what they think is the best option," Newlin said.
He said students not being in school does raise some concerns for him about child abuse going unreported.
"We absolutely saw a decrease in reports from the time we shut down the schools until the end of the school period. We definitely saw a significant decline somewhere around 50%," he said.
Newlin said after the state started to re-open, the cases of abuse being reported started to go up.
"The increase of reports all came as we started to loosen up restrictions, so it's correlational that it happened at the same time, but did it cause increased reporting? I just don't know, but I think you have to think that's a possibility," he added.
Newlin explained every family needs to consider the home environment when deciding if virtual school is the right choice.
"There are many considerations that go into it. Who's in the home? The health status of individuals in the homes, the current status of this issue. It's a very difficult situation for parents," he said.
Newlin explained he understands it's not an easy decision, but an important one for families to make.
"The other thing that all parents are struggling with is just the natural struggle of having a job and having kids, especially if the kids are not able to be in school," he said.
Newlin said right now, he is asking for anyone in the community who thinks something might not be okay with a child to say something, because some kids being out of school for months might not have been able to report abuse.
The National Children's Advocacy Center said they are still doing tele-health therapy for their patients, but on Monday closed the doors to their building for at least the next two weeks. The center will only be open in person for emergent cases, meaning if there are forensic interviews that must take place because a child is in danger.