Jun19TueJune 19, 2018
We are often asked if schools follow the same standard of protection that Plan to Protect® recommends. Often the standards schools follow are the objections that Board members and leaders use to refute the best practices that are laid out in policies and procedures. How safe are our schools?
I have three children. All three children are educators; two have their B.Ed., with double majors. My youngest is an Early Childhood Educator. Teaching probably comes naturally for them, as we are communicators and have a bent for teaching. With twelve years of post-secondary school training shared among the three, do you know how many hours they received in abuse prevention and child protection? A total of 3 hours (plus 8 hours as a result of encouraging their Program Directors to invite Plan to Protect in-house to do training among their co-students).
Can you imagine -- a total of three hours to protect the students they would be teaching. A total of three hours between the three of them to protect themselves from wrongful allegations of abuse?
Is more training necessary? Absolutely! In a new study that was released by Canadian Centre for Child Protection, it identified 750 cases of sexual offences (or alleged offences) occurred against a minimum of 1,272 children between 1997 and 2017. The first-of-its-kind study states 700 Canadian school employees committed or were alleged to have committed sexual offences against nearly 1,300 children over the past 20 years. Click here to read this article.
Schools provide an opportunity for relationships to be formed over a long period of time. Teachers spend many hours with students, often in small groups settings or alone (tutoring, between classes, before and after school, etc.)
Universities offering educational programs assume that it is the responsibility of the Board to educate teacher candidates. School Boards assume that the training is part of the B.Ed. or Early Childhood Education programs, or that the training happens during Professional Development days. School Administrators assume that their staff come ready trained and are professionals, ready to engage with students in classroom settings.
I live in Ontario, and it has only been in the last five years that the Ontario Board of Education began requiring annual child abuse prevention training for certified teachers. Why is it such a new requirement when other organizations have been required by their insurance companies to do orientation and annual child protection training for years? In most cases schools are self-insured, so the standard requirements have not been placed on them.
Andrea Clemens Vaughn author of Breaking the Cycle of Educator Sexual Abuse writes:
"My middle school teacher molested me.
How is it possible for those words to be written? One would think that a school teacher, trained to educate and care for children, would be the last person able to harm a child. Yet, this man sexually abused me for years, and not a single adult came to my rescue. Mr. Baker was a well-respected married man whom students loved, parents trusted, and the school awarded. He spent two years grooming me – building up my trust, spending time listening to my problems, and showering me with the much-needed attention I hadn’t received at home. Mr. Baker was completely above suspicion that he would be capable of sexually abusing anyone. The abuse lasted throughout my high school career and beyond. I was finally able to break away from his control over me and moved out of state. Years later, I contacted the principal of the middle school where Mr. Baker was still teaching. I disclosed the abuse to him, and after a brief conversation, the principal said he would “take care” of it.
I heard nothing for eight months from the school. Then one day I received a call from local detectives informing me that Mr. Baker was in custody. I was confused; I hadn’t even given my statement to any officials. And I was told, 'Oh, no, he’s in custody for statutory rape of two fourteen-year-old girls.'
Unfortunately, my story is not unique. The U.S. Department of Education published a report in 2004 stating that nearly one in ten students will experience some form of sexual misconduct by a school employee by his or her senior year. One in ten equals 4.5 million children. The lack of clear training, policies, and procedures within school districts is alarming. Most U.S. schools are conducting lock-down drills in our classrooms on a monthly basis. This preventative measure is understandable given the recent increase in school shootings. What is disturbing is that the number of children abused by a school employee greatly out numbers school shooting victims. 4.5 million children – why are there so few policies and training in place to protect these children?"
We have such an opportunity to help raise awareness of the need to achieve a high standard of protection and abuse prevention. Armed with the studies and statistics of the prevalence of abuse within schools, let's call for Universities, Colleges, School Boards, Schools to make child protection and abuse prevention a high priority. If the insurance companies can't put the pressure on schools, parents, grandparents and the community should.
I along with Andrea, am convinced that the vast majority of educators, administrators, and those in leadership roles of child-serving organizations are incredible and have nothing but the best of intentions for children. Andrea writes, "We need to empower these wonderful protectors with clear, concrete strategies to protect our precious, vulnerable ones. I have dedicated my life and career to speaking out and encouraging others to do the same. The importance of taking action, when sensing something is wrong, cannot be overstated. Since my book, was published, several of my former teachers have contacted me. Each teacher apologized to me for not speaking out, for not following their instincts on what appeared to be something very inappropriate. With every acknowledgment of regret, I have heard the same explanation: 'We had no training. We didn’t know how to handle these questions or concerns. If only we had known what to do.'
Imagine if my school had Plan to Protect® in place? Perhaps even one teacher or administrator would have stepped up and set in action some steps that could have saved me from years of torture. Mr. Baker’s later victims may have been saved, as well."
I encourage you to read Andrea's book (CLICK HERE) and become an advocate for abuse prevention and student protection within our schools.