Archive for April, 2011

Abusive teachers: Are our children safe at school?

In the midst of National Child Abuse Prevention month teachers are in the news. Not for stellar teaching but for abusing children.

  • Waterville, NY: David Lemery, a physical education teacher has been accused of sexually abusing a young girl while in school
  • New York City: Sabrina Milo, a 34 year-old teacher was arrested for telling co-workers she planned to bring a shotgun to school and “settle some scores” in what was described as a “Columbine style” plot.
  • Bronx, NY: An 11-year-old Bronx girl has sued New York City, claiming that police officers overreacted last spring, handcuffing her after a fight with a third-grade classmate and denying her mother’s request to be present when they interviewed her.
  • Moutainview, CO: Courtney Bowles, a former teacher at Mountain View High School, got national exposure for having sex with a student in a car
  • Huntsville, AL: A Huntsville elementary school teacher arrested on several counts of sexual abuse against students
  • Mirimar, FL: teacher tapes 13 year-old student’s mouth shut for talking in class
  • Brevard County, FL: Group Leader at South Lake Elementary School taped a 5-year-old student to a chair with packing tape. 

Child abuse has reached epidemic proportions in schools throughout our nation and has become an alarmingly frequent occurrence. The cases that are surfacing almost daily serve as a wake-up call to everyone in America to protect our children!

Whether it’s sexual abuse or corporal punishment, child abuse in our schools is happening all over the country. Although the vast majority of educators and other school employees are not child abusers, the stories continue to unfold throughout our nation.

A former teacher was sitting in the audience of the popular TV talk show “The Talk” and when asked her views on corporal punishment she said she believed in hitting a student to keep them disciplined.

Corporal punishment must not be allowed. 

Any sexual contact between teacher and student is a crime. Sexual abuse is a child becoming a sexual partner for an adult. Anyone under the age of 18 who is used by an adult for sexual gratification is being Sexually Abused whether or not the child consents.

Children are taught to respect and honor parental authority figures such as teachers, guidance counselors, and principals and not to question their actions. We trust our schools to protect our most vulnerable … yet children are being sexually molested by the very people who are supposed to protect them. Most abusers remain undetected and free to continue their abuse of power and violation of professional ethics.

To believe it can’t happen to us and our children – that no one we know would ever abuse our kids, and certainly not someone entrusted with their care or well-being — is to live in denial. Sexual abusers tend to choose occupations that put them in close contact with children. They can be found in every profession. They are heterosexual and homosexual — they don’t discriminate.

What can we do?

Covering up abuse in schools sends a message to the abuser that it is acceptable behavior. We must report the abuser and get help for the children. School boards must send a message that they care and accept zero tolerance.

We must insist for and demand:

• Laws that mandate fingerprinting teachers and other school employees and conduct FBI checks on their criminal history

• Educate about child abuse prevention education beginning at the school board level … establishing strong, clear policies that warn teachers of inappropriate conduct, such as putting themselves in vulnerable positions where they are alone with students.

• Hold mandatory child abuse prevention training and educational seminars for all staff including teachers, bus drivers, cooks, etc. on a monthly basis. Training sessions can help educators understand their district’s policy, the warning signs of possible sexual abuse, and the procedures for reporting abuse when they see it.

• School leaders must make it clear to all staff that the district is serious about investigating any hint of child sexual abuse.

• District policies must stress all employees are mandated to report any suspicion of sexual misconduct and make clear that they will be disciplined if they fail to do so

• Stricter reference and background checks. Meticulously screening of new hires. School administrators must do criminal background checks on applicants and call their former employers and associates, including some who may not be listed on their resumes. Be leery of gaps and frequent changes in an applicant’s job history.

• Remove the accused teacher from contact with children, usually with a suspension, during the investigation

• Immediately notify police or community social service authorities.

• Train students about inappropriate behavior by adults and where to report it if they ever see it occur

• Organize a team of supervised peer counselors where students have a place to go

We must write to our legislators and demand Zero Tolerance.

Contact your politicians and ask for stronger laws that protect our children and for a stronger statute on mandated reporting of child abuse. All responsible citizens with knowledge of child abuse, which is a crime, should be required to report it, even if it’s only suspected. Write letters, e-mail, make phone calls … take action.

It’s time for America to wake-up! Knowledge is power. Learn all you can about child abuse. Educate yourself, your children, your family, your friends, neighbors — everyone you know. We must keep our children safe!

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month.

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Trust: Bad things can happen to good children (online safety)

“A MUST SEE movie for every parent whose kids are on the Internet” – Ross Ellis, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, STOMP Out Bullying™ and Love Our Children USA™

By Guest  Blogger Christopher Burgess

In David Schwimmer’s TRUST, bad things happen to Annie, a good child. She is by all appearances a typical teenager – totally wired, online and available, 24/7/365.  As the typical teen, the online interaction includes those with whom she has a personal relationship with a physical quotient: her best friends, family members, and school acquaintances. She also has availed to her an increased circle of acquaintances about whom her knowledge is limited to their projected online personas.

In the physical world, parents see with whom their child interacts. As the parents witness this interaction they are able to help guide and influence their child’s choices. Overtime, the maturation of the child’s decision-making skills demonstrates absorption of the lessons, principles and ethics of the parent. The child displays good decision-making skills and the level of trust bestowed upon the child and their range of movement may be increased.

Within the online world, it isn’t that different. The parents continue to have the responsibility to see with whom their child interacts both within their own community and beyond. Though alien for so many parents of today’s teens and tweens, the totally wired child is interacting at a pace which far outstrips the physical world interaction, while not being as easily observable by the parent.

Parents must assist their child online as they do offline. Parents must be able to note whom their child is engaging and perform the necessary due diligence on the individual. The parent must also be able to note the frequency and modes of this communication with the “online friends.” The most important rule to follow when navigating between the online and physical world is when the online friend suggests moving the relationship from virtual to physical. The number one rule for every family: “The child must not engage in any personal meetings with an individual whom they have only met online without explicit parental permission.”

So many attribute their lack of desire to look into what their child is doing online to their desire to trust their child. One should trust their child, but that level of trust shouldn’t extend to an individual about who so little is known – the online acquaintance and their online persona. Parents can and should do their own due diligence on those at the other end of the online connection. Parents can observe and monitor frequency and modes of contact. In addition to the “no meeting” rule, the next most important rule is all online interaction will occur from a centralized (observable) locale (the laptop in the bedroom should never occur).

The parent can also advantage themselves to any of the numerous software offerings which will provide the internet protocol (IP) addresses with who their devices are engaged. In this manner, the parent can note all interactions and highlight those worthy of further investigation. If your child’s interlocutor is coming into contact with your child from a variety of geographically diverse locales, that should be considered anomalous and worthy of deeper inspection. If the child has their own device (laptop or desktop), then you may desire to put a time limit on when the device is allowed to access the internet (in the physical world, when the child leaves the home the parent knows where they are going, who they will be with and when they are expected to return) via regulating the router access.

Mobile telephony is often overlooked. This is a means by which a child may circumvent the safety net provided by their parents within their home. Text (SMS) messages, video messages, photos, emails, and chat are all a part of the normal offering from today’s smart phones and warrant the same level of observation provided to the devices within the home. With respect to mobile devices one can review the device itself and also review the billing and call records in the same manner one would for the IP addresses. Again, there is available a plethora of applications designed to lock-down and regulate the areas of the accessible internet writ-large for mobile devices.

The protection of your children is important. You can honor their privacy and enhance their protection by guiding your child in the online world just as you would in the physical world. In doing so, you will greatly reduce the opportunity for a malevolent person from making the adage “bad things to happen to good children” a reality.

Trust_ opens at theaters in the United States on 1 April.

Safe and sound in their suburban home, Will and Lynn Cameron used to sleep well at night, trusting their children were protected. Will, in particular, was comforted by the fact that he and Lynn raised three bright children, and that once the doors were locked and the alarm was set, nothing — absolutely nothing — was going to harm his family.

When his fourteen-year-old daughter, Annie, made a new friend online — a sixteen-year-old boy named Charlie that she met in a volleyball chat room — Will and Lynn didn’t think much of it. They discussed his friendship with her, assuming that this is normal with teenagers who connect through the internet.

After weeks of communicating online, Annie becomes enraptured by Charlie and finds herself drawn to him more and more. Slowly she learns he is not who he claims to be, yet Annie remains intrigued by Charlie even as the truth about him is uncovered. The devastating revelation reverberates through her entire family, setting in motion a chain of events that forever change their lives in ways that no one could have ever predicted.

Genre(s): Drama
Runtime: 104 min.
MPAA Rating: R (for disturbing material involving the rape of a teen, language, sexual content and some violence.)
Theatrical Release Date: 04/01/2011
DVD Release Date:  07/26/2011
Status:  Coming Soon
Distributor(s): Millennium Entertainment
Director(s):  David Schwimmer
Starring: Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Viola Davis, Liana Liberato
Country of Origin: USA – Limited (04-01-2011)
Language: English

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