Desiree James-Buhl, a teacher, was charged with failure to
comply with the mandatory reporting law that requires
specified professionals to report incidents of child abuse
when they have reasonable cause to believe a child has
suffered abuse or neglect. RCW 26.44.030(1)(a). James-Buhl
received notice of child abuse from her three daughters
alleging that they were being touched inappropriately within
the home by their stepfather, but she did not make an
immediate report. At issue is whether James-Buhl's
employment status as a teacher required her to report the
alleged abuse of her own children, who are not her students,
when the abuse occurred within the home and was perpetrated
by another family member. We reverse the Court of Appeals and
hold that a teacher's failure to comply with the
mandatory reporting duty must have some connection to his or
her professional identity.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
is a public school teacher who lives with her three
daughters. Her daughters are not her students, nor have they
ever been. At all times relevant to the facts of this case,
James-Buhl was married to Joshua Hodges, the girls'
stepfather. In May 2015, one of James-Buhl's daughters
told her pastor that Hodges had been touching her and the
pastor referred the matter to Child Protective Services. The
Pierce County Sheriffs Department began investigating the
allegations, and, based on its investigation, all three of
James-Buhl's daughters told their mother about
Hodges' alleged abuse as early as January 2015. All of
the alleged abuse occurred at James-Buhl's home.
State charged James-Buhl with three counts of failure to
comply with the mandatory reporting law applicable to her as
"professional school personnel." RCW
26.44.030(1)(a). The State alleged that James-Buhl knowingly
failed to report child abuse on or between January 1 and May
20, 2015. But the State did not allege that James-Buhl's
daughters were her students or enrolled in the school where
filed a motion to dismiss the charges, arguing that RCW
26.44.030(1)(a) did not apply to her in this case because her
daughters were not her students and because she learned about
the alleged abuse in her parental role while in her home, not
as a teacher. The trial judge agreed and dismissed the
State appealed the dismissal. The Court of Appeals reversed
based on its interpretation of the plain language of RCW
26.44.030(1)(a). The Court of Appeals first explained that
RCW 26.44.030(1)(a) does not include a course of employment
limitation because there are express limitations in
subsections (1)(b), (1)(c), and (1)(e), which "clearly
shows that the legislature did not intend to include such a
limitation for subsection (1)(a)." State v.
James-Buhl, 198 Wn.App. 288, 298, 393 P.3d 817 (2017).
The court held that "the mandatory reporting duty for
the professionals identified applies in all circumstances ...
mean[ing] that a teacher can be subject to prosecution for
failing to report suspected child abuse based on information
obtained at home, on vacation, or anywhere else."
Id. at 300-01. James-Buhl petitioned for review,
which this court granted. State v. James-Buhl, 189
Wn.2d 1008, 402 P.3d 829 (2017).
RCW 26.44.030(1)(a) apply to teachers when their own
children, who are not their students, report abuse by another
family member perpetrated within the home?
Standard of review
dismissal was based on the trial court's statutory
interpretation, which is a question of law reviewed de novo.
Dep't of Ecology v. Campbell & Gwinn, LLC,146 Wn.2d 1, 9, 43 P.3d 4 (2002) (citing State v.
Breazeale,144 Wn.2d 829, 837, 31 P.3d 1155 (2001);
State v. JM,144 Wn.2d 472, 480, 28 P.3d 720
(2001)). Statutory interpretation begins with the
statute's plain meaning. Lake v. Woodcreek Homeowners
Ass'n,169 Wn.2d 516, 526-27, 243 P.3d 1283 (2010).
Plain meaning is "discerned from the ordinary meaning of
the language at issue, the context of the statute in which
that provision is found, related provisions, and the
statutory scheme as a whole." State v. Engel,166 Wn.2d 572, 578, 210 P.3d 1007 (2009). When ascertaining
the plain meaning of the statute, we "must not add words
where the legislature has chosen not to include them, "
and we must "construe statutes such that all of the
language is given effect." Rest. Dev., Inc. v.
Cananwill, Inc.,150 Wn.2d 674, 682, 80 P.3d 598 (2003).
If the plain language is unambiguous, the court must give it
effect. State v. Armendariz,160 Wn.2d 106, 110, 156
P.3d 201 (2007). However, if the statute remains susceptible
to multiple meanings, it is appropriate for the court to
resort to aids to ...