May 6, 2014

Teacher helping student on computer

April 15, 2014

Summary: The relationship between your child and their teachers are one of the most important relationships they will have in their lifetime.  If the relationship is a proper one, your child will learn a lot about respect and fairness.  However, no matter how strong our children, or us individually are, we don’t control our children’s environment in school.  But, there are signs that indicate your child’s school is doing the right things to protect your kids.

The relationship between a teacher and their students is crucially important, most so for the child.  On average, a child can spend anywhere from 7 hours a day with a teacher, for almost 10 months in the year.  What are the hallmarks of a good teacher?  Certainly, a teacher that understands their students’ strengths, weaknesses is a major factor.  Respect in all fashions is also a must; giving respect to all students, demanding it in return, and ensuring children respect their fellow students are just a few examples of fostering the trust so vitally needed in our schools.

No question, we have amazing teachers in California; some of them teach in the finest public and private schools in the nation and some must make the most of limited resources, especially inner-city teachers.  These stellar teachers are not the target audience of this message. Unfortunately, the relatively few teachers who use their placement and superiority in the classroom to sexually abuse children give a bad name to the rest of the decent and excellent teachers in our state.  Worse yet, there is no cookie-cutter stereotype of a sexual predator; the stark reality is we will never know where or when the next predator will strike.

California’s state constitution specifically mentions that all kids have an inalienable right to a safe environment in school.  Many of you reading this, as I am, are parents to school-aged children.  Yet, when we drop off our children to the bus stop or to the school, we lose control of our kids’ environment, and would be rendered helpless if their teacher abused them.  So, what can we do to assert a measure of control of our child’s environment?  One thing we can do is understand what are acceptable behaviors and relationships between our children and their teachers; we wrote last month about red flags and preventive measures to keep our children safe, but this is more specific.  Here are seven qualities of a healthy school environment for your children:

1. The teacher is transparent in all their dealings with your child.  Some examples are giving parents advance notification if they are required to spend any alone time with your child for school-related activities, but avoiding one-on-one contact when possible.

2. The school is also transparent in their dealings with the teachers and your student.  Conducting random and scheduled inspections are just one way to show this.  Another way you will know the school is doing right is if they take legitimate concerns seriously.

3. The teacher gives all students equal attention and consideration in the classroom, regardless of race, gender, orientation, or religion.  In the event that out-of-school tutoring is required off-campus, that there is adequate policy from the school to govern such communication, and that consent forms must be double signed by administrators and parents alike.

4. Teachers educate students on the nature of sexual abuse, and demonstrate what appropriate and non-appropriate conduct is.

5. The school requires that each teacher is subjected to a background check.

6. If the teacher respects your child’s privacy; for example, a gym teacher allowing students to shower or change without closely monitoring them.

7. If the school requires all teachers and staff to annually certify in abuse training, and has a quality faculty development program.

Surely, there are other qualities that could further increase a school’s ability to weed out potential sexual predators, but these seven are vital for any school to claim it can credibly protect your children on their watch. 


California State University, Northridge (Education)

Mike Bomberger Blog – Preventing Child Sexual Assault

A Review of Professional Conduct in Utah’s Public Schools