Sex Education: Rocked by Scandal, the Diocese of Cleveland Responds with New Policy

The Morning Journal [Ohio]
February 10, 2004

Many educators want to know why the problem of predatory teachers has received far less public attention than the issue of Roman Catholic clergymen who sexually abuse children, according to a review last year by Education Week.

"Everybody is all up in arms about the priests, but there's no difference from what priests and teachers have been doing to kids for decades," said Terri L. Miller, the president of the advocacy network Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation, or SESAME.

"Where is the outrage?" she said in the Education Week review. "Why aren't people protesting in Washington, demanding safe education? Why aren't people in an uproar?"

At the height of the pedophile priest scandal in June 2002, America's Roman Catholic bishops adopted reforms that included putting child-protection programs in place, establishing codes of conduct and carrying out background checks on diocesan workers.

Last fall, the Diocese of Cleveland began establishing rules for any employees or volunteers who come in contact with children, and the effort could be an example for many school districts that lack policies on teacher-student contacts.

The policy implements safeguards to prevent molestation, such as conducting background checks on diocesan priests and lay workers and training them to identify abuse.

The Cleveland diocese's program is called the Virtus (Latin word for courage and character) Program or Protecting God's Children, said diocese spokesman Bob Tayek.

A 52-page "Policy for the Safety of Children in Matters of Sexual Abuse" was distributed last year to all employees and volunteers in the diocese, and it contained a statement of acknowledgment that each person had to sign and return after reading the policy.

Volunteers include everybody from coaches to catechism teachers and altar server coordinators.

As a follow-up, all employees and volunteers are being required to attend a three-hour education and awareness session, according to letters sent to employees and volunteers in each parish.

Attendees must pre-register for the sessions at a Web site, and in the future they will periodically receive e-mail notification of new information on the topic, according to the letter.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.