Updated:CENTRAL FLORIDA - Central Florida teachers are already protecting their students this school year by calling the state's abuse hotline to report incidents. The Department of Children and Families told WFTV that calls to the state's abuse hotline has doubled, from the last week of summer to the first week of school.
Teachers are considered a primary reporter for DCF and investigators rely heavily on them.
"Right now our intake has increased dramatically," DCF investigator Valery Damberville said.
Damberville is as busy now as he's ever been.
"Now that the school is in, the majority, all the teachers are mandated reporters, so once they see something suspicious we would go out. So that's part of the reason our numbers have increased," he said.
According to DCF, in Orange County, the week before school started there were 86 reported child abuse cases. Once school started, that number more than doubled to 179. In Brevard County, the number of cases rose from 47 to 59 and in Volusia it stayed the same at 23 cases.
Teachers are required by law to report suspect cases of child abuse. The school district says all employees, including teachers, are told to just pick up the phone and called the DCF hotline directly. Once DCF gets a tip, an investigator is assigned the case.
WFTV was with Dambreville Friday afternoon when he went to check on a child, but no one was home.
DCF says teachers often see signs of abuse once the student gets comfortable and starts opening up.
"The teachers play a big part with counseling as well, not just reporting the abuse to us but as well as providing counseling to the child," Damberville said.
DCF couldn't say how many of the cases reported by teachers turned into actual abuse cases. DCF said, year-to-year, the number of abuse cases for the first week of school is up, but couldn't get exact figures.