Saturday, April 22, 2006

Interesting Report on Educator Sexual Misconduct

I came across an interesting report by the Department of Education on sexual abuse by teachers. It examines the incidence and prevalence of abuse, patterns of misconduct, and prevention strategies. Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature reported some disturbing statistics.

According to a draft report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, in compliance with the 2002 "No Child Left Behind" act signed into law by President Bush, between 6 percent and 10 percent of public school children across the country have been sexually abused or harassed by school employees and teachers.

Here are some excerpts from the study:

** In the state of New York alone, more than $18.7 million was paid between 1996 and 2001 to students who were sexually abused by educators. Fees for attorneys and investigators are in addition to the settlement amounts.

From a study of 225 cases of admitted educator sexual abuse in New York State:

** None of the abusers was reported to authorities

** Only 1 percent lost their license to teach

Only 35 percent of abusers received a negative consequence for their actions: 15 percent were terminated or, if not tenured, they were not rehired; and 20 percent received a formal reprimand or suspension.

** Another 25 percent received no consequence or were reprimanded informally and off-the-record. Nearly 39 percent chose to leave the district, most with positive recommendations or even retirement packages intact.

There are some wonderful, dedicated administrators and teachers out there. Involved parents make a difference. I don't think they can turn the system around because bureaucracy rewards incompetence. I believe that is why so many administrators and teachers cover up abuse of children.

Here's the sad part. This study made policy recommendations to prevent future abuse. A follow up study showed that NONE of the recommendations had been implemented. Why pay for the study if they are going to ignore the problem and do nothing to fix it?

Most parents with children in school respond to this kind of story with "Things like this don't happen at my school." My response is "How would you know?" Unless you are in the inner circle or know someone who is, you wouldn't know. School Districts have paid out more to sex abuse victims than the Catholic Church.

Some parents feel comfortable that their child will not be a victim of sexual misconduct by an educator. An estimated 90 to 94% of children are not abused by educators. However, educator misconduct only accounts for 21 percent of sexual misconduct in schools. The remaining 79 percent of victims were targets of other students.

So, what's a parent to do? Many families, like ours, choose to more carefully monitor our children's education by directly providing or supervising the instruction. We use a mix of home instruction, distance learning, private school, co-op classes, and private lessons. We take an active roll in supervising our children when they interact with other children and adults. This does not mean that our children are isolated. We interact with a wide variety of children and adults through extended family, neighbors, homeschool groups, church groups, sports teams, parks and recreation classes, and summer camps.

In all these settings, we monitor who has access to our children. Just because someone is a family member, long term neighbor, or friend from church, we make no assumptions of trustworthiness. Neither, are we overly distrustful. Simple precautions such as utilizing the buddy system and frequent unannounced monitoring cover most situations.

Another important element is trusting your instincts. If a situation doesn't feel "right," do something. Once at a social gathering I got a "bad vibe" when visiting with someone I hadn't met before. I pulled my husband aside and we discussed it. We decided that our child was not to be alone with this person during the event. We didn't make a big deal out of it. We just made sure one of us was in the room with our child at all times. We made no accusations and said nothing to anyone. I don't know what it was, or if it was anything. However, we did our job as parents.

That's one of the weaknesses of public education. Parents turn their children over to strangers for long periods of time unsupervised. A teacher credential doesn't mean that person is trustworthy or uses good judgment. The above mentioned study reported that often educator abusers are "professionally accomplished and even celebrated." The report stated that "many educators who abuse work at being recognized as good professionals in order to be able to sexually abuse children. For them, being a good educator is the path to children, especially those who abuse elementary and younger middle school students."

So, beware of a wolf in sheep's clothing. Parents must protect their children because the school system will not.

Here's how the study defined sexual misconduct:

During your whole school life, how often, if at all, has anyone (this includes students, teachers, other school employees, or anyone else) done the following things to you when you did not want them to?

() Made sexual comments, jokes, gestures, or looks.
() Showed, gave or left you sexual pictures, photographs, illustrations,
messages, or notes.
() Wrote sexual messages/graffiti about you on bathroom walls, in locker
rooms, etc.
() Spread sexual rumors about you.
() Said you were gay or a lesbian.
() Spied on you as you dressed or showered at school.
() Flashed or "mooned" you.
() Touched, grabbed, or pinched you in a sexual way.
() Intentionally brushed up against you in a sexual way.
() Pulled at your clothing in a sexual way.
() Pulled off or down your clothing.
() Blocked your way or cornered you in a sexual way.
() Forced you to kiss him/her.
() Forced you to do something sexual, other than kissing.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, , , sexual abuse of children, educator sexual misconduct


Dana said...

interesting...and frightening. And I cannot help but notice in the questioning that it refers to this happening "when you did not want it to." Unfortunately, it appears from recent news stories, that often times students do want it. But I would personally still define it as sexual misconduct on the part of the teacher.

christinemm said...

Henry this is your best post ever.

I had never known such a report had to be made. I have never heard any statistics before about sexual misconduct while in school by school staff or teachers. I am floored.

What good detective work.

These must be some of the teachers who are in the 'rubber room' in New York City as mentioned in the John Stossel 20/20 investigation "Stupid in America"---it was mentioned that some teachers cannot be fired yet they 'don't want them around any children'. It was too bad they didn't get into explaining what they actually meant by that statement.

I would like to mention that teachers and school staff do not have background checks in order to do their job.

As a Cub Scout Leader, not only are we never supposed to be alone with any children, we are supposed to be 'two deep leadership', and there are very strict rules about overnight camping, but I was subjected to a full background check in order to volunteer for the position.

I wonder if Little League does the same for their coaches? If they do they should publicize it because as a parent of kids in Little League last year and other years, I was not ever told of that.

Then again we still have the general issue in society and also with the schools and the statistics that you mentioned that most of sexual abuse or sexual misconduct does not get reported to the police anyway.

Then another whole problem is the prosecution even when the person is found guilty...Bill O'Reilly has been doing a big expose on that with regard to child sexual abuse in particular and he has been discovering very lenient sentences handed down by judges. No matter what a person's political affiliation or feeling about O'Reilly, perhaps they should look at what he is doing in that arena as no one else in the media is advocating for children who have been sexually abused.

christinemm said...

Whoops I guess kudos go to Janine. Great job.

Thank you for telling us what the children were asked. It is good to know the parameters.

I am blogging about your post today.

I also wanted to add that you mentioned 'good parents'. There are many 'good parents' whose children are sexually abused.

Anyone who wants more information about preventing sexual abuse or at least noticing the signs that it has already happened should read "Protecting the Gift" by Gavin De Becker.

Janine Cate said...

I agree that many good parents can still have children who are victims of sexual abuse. Statistically speaking, the more vigilant the parent, the more protected the child. Another problem that was mentioned in the study, abusers can appear to be very charming and "safe."

I remember a case of abuse by a Scout leader. He had been getting away with it for years because he was so trusted in the community. A boy visiting from out of town was also abused. The difference between him and the other children was that he told his parents immediately. When asked specifically, the other children began to talk. I don't know how long the abuse would have continued without the other boy speaking out.

Janine Cate said...

While we are on the topic, parents must be careful the investigators of abuse don't "plant" false memeories. The investigation can be worse than the original event, especially if nothing happened. I've heard of cases where investigators pressure children into making false accusations.

Following guidelines, like not allowing an adult alone with a child, protects both the child and the adult. That is why my husband never picks up the babysitter (on the rare occasions we go out and need one). He can't be alone in a car with a teenage girl.

Anonymous said...

This wouldn't happen if they let teachers marry, and if they let women be teachers.