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Is Your Child’s Teacher Savvy and Safe?

I didn’t recognize the email address.  I didn’t know the name of the person who sent it.  But the subject line sent chills down my spine.

It read: Sex offender list for Deene Juncker.

You see, I know Mr. Juncker.  Or at least I know the dark side of him.

I prosecuted Mr. Juncker about 13 years ago for his predatory behavior against one of his students at a local private school.

He had groomed one her, convinced her he was in love with her, taken her to a hotel, and had sex with her.

The evidence was clear—we had him dead to rights—and he pled guilty and served time in prison.

And now, more than a decade later, he’s served his time, his registration requirement has ended, and he’s moved on with his life.

But the email I received made it clear that not everyone has.

It was from a young woman who was, as it turns out, another one of his victims.  We suspected that there had been others but hadn’t been able to identify them.

And as this young woman and I began to converse, not only did she identify numerous others who had been groomed, she outlined all the red flags that other adults failed to notice or report or both.

Reading them, they seem so incredibly devious, obvious, and disturbing.

So why did no one tell?

Well, the reality is that educator sexual abuse is far more common than we’d like to admit—about 10% of students will be abused by a teacher or another school professional before they graduate.

Coupled with that reality, is research that, according to Charol Shakeshaft, a researcher at Virginia Commonwealth University, demonstrates that roughly 87% of teachers would not report suspected abuse by another teacher.

Gross, right?

Shocking, right?

The reasons for this are complex, but in many instances, it is the result of poor, inadequate, outdated, or nonexistent training.

Most parents assume that teachers receive training on their mandatory reporting requirements, recognizing red flags and warning signs in other professionals for abusive behavior, and responding to reports of abuse.

They don’t.  Or at least not consistently.

In the State of Washington, educators (not all school staff) are required to take a course on “issues of abuse” and suicide prevention.

There is no standardized course, and teacher candidates are told the course can be “completed anywhere, for any length of time, from any point in time, as long as it includes some of the elements listed.”[1]

Moreover, once is deemed enough.

That means that a teacher who has worked for 20 years will have had some kind of training, once, two decades ago.

That’s it.

And anyone without teaching credentials may not have any training at all. That means bus drivers, support staff, janitorial staff, kitchen staff, teacher aides etc.

It’s not enough.

It’s not keeping our kids safe.

And they deserve better.

letters to spell important

Because when professionals are trained with up-to-date trainings on a regular basis, we know that about 85% of dangerous situations can be avoided before they ever happen.

For that reason, as we dive back into a new school year, it pays for parents and other loving caregivers to pay attention.

Yes, most teachers are loving, dedicated professionals—I have GREAT respect for them (my mom was a teacher for decades).

But they still need adequate training.

We can’t simply expect them to know what to do and look out for if they aren’t taught.

So, if you want to make sure your school is doing everything it can, here are the questions to ask your school, your superintendent, and/or your school board:

  1. What training do teachers receive on child sexual abuse prevention?
  2. Are other staff members required to also receive training? If not, why not?
  3. Is the training live or taught by video?
  4. If taught by video, what assurances do you have that the teacher was attentive and learning?
  5. How often do they have to renew the training?
  6. Is the training state specific; in other words does it address the laws of the state in which they work?
  7. What procedures are in place if a report is made of concerning behavior by a parent or another teacher?
  8. What steps has the school made to make it unfriendly to would-be abusers?
  9. What rules are in place regarding open/closed classroom doors, befriending students on social media, texting students, contact outside of school, etc.
  10. What training do the students receive on child sexual abuse prevention?

 

This list should give you a jumping-off point to start a conversation and let your school know that abuse prevention is important to you.

If they don’t provide updated, regular trainings, send them my way!  Savvy Parents Safe Kids can help—this is right up our alley!

 

Note: to listen to my colleague Cheri Benjoseph and I discuss other ways to help keep your kiddos safer at school, check out our recent Facebook Live in The Heartful Parent Collective!

[1] Quote from the NorthEast Washington Educational Service District 101’s website.

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Christy Keating is a certified parent coach,  positive discipline educator, and motivational speaker. She is the founder and CEO of The Heartful Parent Collective, which includes Heartful Parent Coaching, Savvy Parents Safe Kids, and Heartful Parent Academy.

The mother of two amazing daughters, Christy strives to build a happier, healthier world - one child, one parent, and one family at a time.

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