Schools have the difficult task of preventing bullying, and they aim to provide safe environments. Preventing sexual abuse is more difficult ... parents need to talk about it with their children at a young age and hope they are empowered to protect themselves. See web links for parents to help them talk with their children.
I feel particularly honored to write the very first blog for Genesis. I decided to write about something that I feel passionate about, which is the safety of our children when we can’t be with them. I think of schools as being the quintessential ‘in loco parentis’, a Latin term that means in the place of a parent because schools assume some of the responsibilities that parents have while the child is in school.
The term was first used in 1769 when Sir William Blackstone asserted that part of parental authority is delegated to the school, including a right to discipline students. However, over the years, the school’s authority has morphed into an obligation of the school to protect students.
According to the National Center for the Victims of Crime, one in five girls and one in twenty boys are victims of sexual abuse. The website stopbullying.gov reports that 15% of high school students (grades 9–12) were electronically bullied in the past year. In one large study, about 49% of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month. So what can we do?
There is no way to fully protect children from bullying and sexual abuse, but there are steps you can take to reduce this risk.
The National Center addresses prevention of bullying through steps to building a safe environment involving youth and parents as well as school staff. Many schools have incorporated such programs and training to prevent bullying from occurring. There are also steps you can take to reduce the risk of sexual abuse. Parents and guardians talking with their kids is a major step to keeping them safe. According to the U. S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website (www.nsopw.gov), when you empower your children to say "No" and teach them that they can come to you with questions and concerns, you take critical steps to preventing child sexual abuse. Admittedly, these are not easy topics to tackle with kids. As a mom with daughters, I know personally just how tough these talks can be. But in my opinion, and as research shows, these conversations are critical. In fact, I hesitated using this topic just because of its sensitivity. But maybe that’s the issue; we need to become informed and start talking about this.
In my research for this blog, I found many websites both nationally and locally that could be helpful in addressing this issue and that have packets to help parents get started on that first conversation.
Here are several important areas to address:
- Teach your child about boundaries
- Teach your child how to talk about his or her body
- Let your children know they won’t get in trouble
When schools address these topic with students and as parents talk to their kids, teaching them to know what to look for and what is inappropriate behavior, we increase the odds of keeping them safe.