In response to the newly-released report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on sexual abuse by school personnel, Prevent Child Abuse America recently released the attached statement titled “Every Child Deserves a Happy and Healthy Childhood.”
CHICAGO, IL, January 31, 2014 – Prevent Child Abuse America agrees with the position in the newly-released report from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on sexual abuse by school personnel that “we must all expand our efforts to ensure that children have safe and secure learning communities,” especially with the idea that we cannot rely exclusively on the government to do so.
We all have a role to make schools a safe and healthy experience for all children regardless of where they live. For example, parents and guardians should talk to children regularly about what they’re doing, where they spend their time, and who they are spending it with, which can help identify possible problems.
Similarly, experts can be brought in to work with schools to develop support systems that promote a sexually safe and healthy climate for both students and faculty so that educators and administrators will be better able to support the prevention work that parents are doing at home, and parents should feel empowered to ask questions of the administrators.
This report indicates very clearly is that there is much more that can be done to promote the happy and healthy childhoods that all our children deserve. According to the Shakeshaft report from 2004, at least 5% of students report a sexual contact of some type from school personnel before they graduate. We know that relying on background screening to predict which school personnel may pose a risk is necessary but it is in no way sufficient.
The GAO report points to inconsistent reporting requirements and definitions as a problem nationally. As the old adage says “measure is the mark of man,” but if we do not have common definitions, strategies, and efforts to measure our prevention work, the impact is not as great as it could be. There is a clear need, now greater than ever, for the creation of a true national plan for America’s children.
Every child deserves a happy and healthy childhood, but the fact that there are different definitions, standards and reporting requirements in different states makes the monumental task of finding where we need to concentrate our prevention efforts all the more difficult. This task is not left to the government and school systems alone, but it’s up to all of us. Every child, victimized or otherwise, deserves to be served and counted, and every adult, parent or otherwise, plays a role in the prevention of child abuse.