- TO REPORT
- TO SUPPORT
REPORT Each state has reporting laws, and educators are mandated reporters-mandated to report disclosures or reasonable suspicions of child sexual abuse to Child Protective Services. There is likely an established protocol and procedures to help you in this process. Failure to report can have serious consequences for you and your school, and more importantly, the child. Mandated reporters can lose their licenses and/or face criminal charges for failing to report.
SUPPORT Provide practical and emotional support to children who allege sexual abuse by a colleague, while they continue to attend school with as much safety and comfort as possible, under the circumstances. Parents school personnel and the student should discuss the creation of an environment free from judgment and embarrassing questions.
You can ensure physical, emotional and social safety in these ways:
- During your interactions with the child and other students, convey neutrality, yet acceptance regarding the allegations, no matter your personal feelings about it.
- Validating difficult feelings shows your emotional support of students. If a student expresses anger, you can respond with,” I see that you are very angry.” This type of mirroring and clarifying shows that you acknowledge the student’s emotional state. You hear them, and don’t judge them because of their feelings.
- If the abuse occurred in the school, refer the child to an outside setting for trauma-focused assessment and treatment rather than providing mental health services in the school.
- At all times, maintain confidentiality.
- CREATE a safe learning environment for students by reviewing school policies to ensure students are protected from verbal or physical threats or any form of harassment.
- Discuss with students the effects of social media and cyberbullying. Let them know that when someone discloses personal information about a student online, they place everyone at risk.
Though you can’t control what students say or do outside of school, inform students that if this incident receives wide media coverage, they are better served and protected by being silent and not responding to requests for information or comments. Members of the media may approach educators, as well, and the same rule applies, at least until the case has been formally concluded. Prohibit students from communicating with the media during school hours and while on campus.
As the proper professionals work to resolve this alleged misdeed[s], and work to ensure student safety, restore trust of the parents, students, and the community-at-large, the educational staff must remember why they chose a career in education. Whether working in a school was an accidental decision, an economic necessity or a deliberate career choice, while you’re here, your first duty is to protect the children, respect their families, become familiar with the community and commit to empower all those whose lives will be positively impacted by a quality education.
Finally, sexual misconduct is a horrible crime no matter the perpetrator, and the involvement of children is far worse. Sexual abuses constitute another form of bullying, and no one wants to believe that the bully is a teacher or anyone working in a school. To learn that any such act involves an educator, whether alleged or substantiated, professional ‘courtesy’ should not prevent mandated reporters from honoring a moral or professional code of ethics. Your duty is to protect the children first- even if the allegations are proven false. It must be reported, as it is far better to err on the side of caution, rather than failing to take action in the best interest of a child.