Whistleblower Punished for Reporting Child Abuse

Tuesday, 31 Jul 2012 04:04 PM

By Patrick Hobin

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A whistleblowing psychologist who revealed that an American Indian tribe was ignoring child abuse on a reservation was punished for his disclosure, the New York Times reported.

Michael R. Tilus, a federal health services psychologist and director of behavioral health at the Spirit Lake Health Center on the Spirit Lake Indian reservation, alleged to state and federal health officials this spring that there was an “epidemic” of child abuse on Spirit Lake in North Dakota, according to the Times.

Dr. Tilus said that he had lost confidence in the ability of tribal leadership to protect children. Federal health officials then reprimanded Dr. Tilus by rescinding a promotion and transferring him, the Times reported.

A 2-month-old girl at the reservation died this month after tribal officials had received warnings of child abuse, the Times reported, and a 19-year-old man was arrested and charged in the killings of a 9-year-old girl and her 6-year-old brother, who were sexually assaulted before being stabbed to death and left under a mattress.

Mark Weber, a Health and Human Services Department spokesman, declined to tell the Times whether Dr. Tilus’s punishment had been in retaliation for disclosing the information.

Dr. Tilus wrote in response to the reprimand, according to the Times: “After significant thought and with great concern for the protection of my patients, I acted as a whistle-blower and made a lawful disclosure by raising my concerns about the health and safety of these abused children to more than just my direct supervisors, but to multiple appropriate agencies who could be intimately involved in resolving this public health crisis. This was more than just doing my job. Doing my job for five years had resulted in no agency action.”

Dr. Tilus said he planned to file a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.


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