My child has told me her teacher touches her inappropriately.

Dear Stop It Now!,
Last night my daughter (4 years old) told me that her teacher at school, an older female in her late 50's or 60's, has been inappropriately touching her and forcing my daughter to let her hold her even when she makes it known that she does not want to be held. There have been times I have picked her up and when saying goodbye to my daughter, the teacher has stepped away from the other children to hug my daughter and even sometimes kiss her cheek. I found that a little unsettling but pushed it aside until now. Have I been overlooking the warning signs? How do I (a former victim) help my daughter from suffering the same fate, if she hasn't already? I am very upset.
 

Dear Concerned Parent,
It’s a really good thing that your daughter felt that she could tell you about her teacher’s behavior. Her teacher’s behavior is not appropriate but it is difficult to say whether she is an adult who is at-risk for harming a child or whether she has very poor boundaries and needs guidance and supervision regarding how to interact with children.

Either way, speaking up about your concerns and  your daughter’s experience is important to helping make sure that your daughter’s environment is safe. And as you’re already doing, it’s important for your daughter to know that you are going to follow up on her concerns and do everything you can to keep her safe.
 
I would recommend that you ask to speak with both the teacher and her supervisor in a private meeting where you detail the concerns you have and the information your daughter shared. It is absolutely ok for you to clearly state your expectations of adult’s behavior when it concerns your daughter. Certainly, at the very least, it is completely appropriate for you to state your requirements regarding touch and your daughter, including that she is not to be hugged or kissed by a teacher.
 
You may also want to inquire about the overall training teachers get in healthy interactions with children and the policies the school  has regarding its teacher’s behaviors, physical touch between adults and children and how they address concerns of inappropriate boundaries and behaviors. We have prevention tools that I believe you'll find helpful in thinking about your school's policies and to help you plan for converations with the school. You may even want to share them directly with your school:

I am also wondering if there have been any other concerns with this teacher? Are there any other parents that you could check in with regarding any concerns they may have? I would approach this cautiously and would not want you to necessarily “accuse” the teacher of wrongdoing and look for substantiation from the other parents. Rather, if you do have other parents to talk with, I would ask them what they think of her style and her relationship with the children.

If the conversation opens into concerns that are shared, then you can ask if that parent has spoken to the teacher and/or her supervisor about the concerns. Perhaps you will find other parents interested in meeting with you, the teacher and the supervisor to describe the concerns.
 
Most importantly, this teacher’s behavior towards your child does need to stop.  Your child is uncomfortable and you are aware that you are seeing potential problems. I encourage you to state this strongly and to follow up immediately, even going through additional administrative channels if you need to.  
 
I hope this information is helpful and encourage you to please contact us back with any concerns or questions. 

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 3rd, 2012