How do parents prevent sexual abuse at school?
There are a variety of steps you can take to protect your child from abuse. The first is to do basic research on the school your child is attending. Have there been previous allegations of abuse? Have background checks been processed on every adult who is employed by or volunteers at the school? Is there a reporting system in place for abuse? Are there abuse prevention programs in place? Are their windows in each classroom? Does the school have surveillance cameras in operation?
When using the public school system, parents often don’t have a choice where their child attends school, or the resources to move their child to a better school. Simply asking these questions may trigger the teachers and administrators at the school to put the necessary safety measures in place. If they don’t, use whatever resources are at your disposal to create change: petitions, meeting attendance, organizing parent groups, etc. Simply by becoming involved and making yourself present at your child’s school may prevent abuse. Predators are more likely to choose victims who have difficult relationships with their parents.
The second step is to educate your child. Abuse usually follows grooming, the process where an abuser selects and prepares the child for abuse.¹ This involves gaining the child’s trust and isolating the child. By educating your child, you can help stop potential abuse before it starts. This involves teaching your child about healthy boundaries. If you’re not sure how to start this conversation with your child, here is a great guide, Keeping Children Safe From Grooming.
The third step is to be aware. Do an internet search of the full legal name of your child’s teacher(s). Previous allegations or arrests will often show up online. If someone takes a special interest in your child at school, or is overly complimentary of that child, have a healthy level of skepticism. Listen for subtle hints your child may leave, including any changes in behavior or physical health or sexual knowledge that isn’t age appropriate. They may also talk about a teacher who gives them hugs or pays special attention. In other cases, they suddenly drop sports or extracurricular activities that they previously liked. Trust your instincts. If something feels “off” or odd about a relationship, investigate further.
By researching your school and its employees, educating your child, and being aware of possible warning signs, you may be able to prevent abuse in your community.
¹Grooming dynamic of CSA. (2014). Retrieved from National Center for Victims of Crime, https://victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/grooming-dynamic-of-csa