What should I do after an adult who worked at our school was accused of abuse?
Dear Stop It Now!,
I have a parent in my school who is concerned that her child may have had contact with a person accused of sexual misconduct in another setting. This individual worked briefly in our school (he is no longer employed) and was never accused of misconduct when he was here. Since he left our employment, allegations have arisen at another school where he was employed. Her child has no symptoms of abuse. I am wondering if there is any type of investigation that could or should take place given that there are no allegations of abuse in our setting. Thanks in advance for any guidance you may be able to provide.
Dear Concerned Administrator,
This is a great question that you ask, and I'm so glad that you reached out to us about this. Though there isn't any investigation your school must perform in light of these disclosures, your school does have an opportunity to engage with parents about how children’s sexual safety is addressed at the school. These are allegations at this point, and so an investigation in your own school, where there have not been any noted concerns, would be difficult. But you can still help create an environment where, should anyone have concerns or questions about any one’s safety or behavior, they feel comfortable raising their concerns.
We know that creating a culture of prevention can actually help kids feel safer in sharing when they have felt unsafe, unsure, or otherwise abused or harmed. A prevention-minded culture in your school can do a lot in terms of keeping kids safe.
Planning for Prevention
If your school doesn't have these already, it would be important to develop clearly stated policies and procedures meant to keep children sexually safe. This tipsheet: Questions Parents Should Ask About School Policies is a great tool for schools to use; it explains recommendations with checklists from the Center for Disease Control to help youth serving organizations plan for safety. Having safety planning precautions in place, such as how youth are supervised and who youth can go to when they have a concern, are also essential aspects of keeping children safe in school. For more information, think about taking a look at our tip sheet for professionals like yourself, Safety in Daycare and Educational Settings.
It's great that this parent confided in you that they were concerned about their own child after hearing about this person's conduct at another school. I'm wondering, has this parent seen any behaviors in their child which have caused them to be concerned? You and them may want to take a look at these Warning Signs In Children Of Possible Sexual Abuse. And, though some children will show a pattern or cluster of these behaviors after an abusive incident, there aren't always warning signs. This is why it's so important for a parent (or other caregiving adult, like yourself) to trust their gut. This also further underscores the value of youth-serving spaces which talk about safe behaviors, what to do if someone is being unsafe, and who kids can talk to if they ever have questions.
Again, these are great questions for both parents and educators to ask and discuss. Together, this is how to establish safe environments for children.
Stop It Now!
Last edited on: September 9th, 2021