By NICK CHILES
The horrific child abuse case in Los Angeles, in which teacher Mark Berndt was charged last month with doing unspeakable things to the children in his classroom, has prompted school officials in California to turn their attention to a curious place in trying to stop or detect child abuse: the teachers.
Though the nation is regularly stunned into numbness by the despicable acts that trusted educators commit against children, curiously nearly all of the training that is done for educators is geared toward teaching them how to spot children who may be abused. This leaves a giant hole in the nation’s defenses against child predators. Since all of these school molesters did their dirty work in the proximity of colleagues who likely knew them well, it makes sense for schools to train educators on the signs of a possible predator in their midst.
According to experts, these are some of the signs of a predator grooming kids for molestation:
- overly childish behavior
- over-involvement with children and their parents
- bestowing gifts and favors
- singling out children as special
- taking photos
- being alone with a child and selecting children
Of course, many educators do these things on a daily basis and the acts are completely innocent, which will put educators in a difficult position when trying to decide whether to report a colleague who may just be weird or doing too much. But these behaviors do give school authorities a place to start with the training.
It’s hard to know how many children are abused in schools every year, but a 2007 Associated Press national investigation tallied 2,500 cases over a five-year period in which educators were punished for sexual abuse. But experts estimate that the actual number is much higher.
“It is a slippery slope as to what is suspicious behavior,” Jennifer Davis, assistant medical director of San Diego’s Chadwick Center for Children & Families at Rady Children’s Hospital, told the Associated Press.
No, this is not easy stuff, relying on teachers to spot the signs of a predator and turn in a colleague. But the alternative—letting a possible predator in your midst continue to do his dirty work—is simply not acceptable.
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