This spring, a teacher that I had known well in high school was charged with sexually assaulting two underage female students. A few weeks ago, he was indicted on 16 felony charges and 11 misdemeanors. This was a well-known and loved teacher, and the entire community was shocked. But the issue of sexual abuse in schools is not an uncommon one.
In an article on chicagoparent.com, Robyn Monaghan examines several recent instances of educators abusing students and questions how willing school officials are to investigate claims of sexual abuse that involve one of their staff or faculty members.
Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct, and Exploitation (SESAME) is an organization that “works as a voice for the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment of students by teachers and other school staff.” They cite many facts and statistics on their website and claim that “15% of students will be sexually abused by a member of the school staff during their school career.”
While this number may seem high, it is important to remember that many students will never report a teacher who acts in an inappropriate manner. Of those victims who do seek help, many face disbelief and scorn rather than receiving support.
Social media have made teacher/student interactions even more complicated. Several states are pursuing legislation that will limit the amount of electronic communication allowed between students and their teachers. The proposed laws will restrict contact through text messages, e-mail and websites like Facebook. Teachers will not be allowed to contact students through their personal accounts, but must use school-sanctioned accounts that are dedicated solely to classroom business.
What can you do?
If you suspect that your child is being abused at school, Monaghan suggests contacting the police directly rather than reporting any incidences to school officials. School districts often want to protect their own, and any statements made may be held against you in court later.
Additionally, view any personal communication from a teacher as a warning sign. No student should be receiving personal messages or gifts that the rest of his or her classmates do not receive.
Sexual abuse in schools is a real problem in our society. The best way to keep your children safe is to monitor their online activity, pay attention to clues that something may be wrong and listen to them if they want to talk about any problems at school.
Photo credit: striatic