September 25, 2017
Contact: Jetta Bernier – firstname.lastname@example.org – 617-827-5218
September 18, 20017 Over two hundred education leaders, legal experts, and child abuse prevention advocates from across New England will convene in Boston on October 20th for a national conference on “Innovative Strategies to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse in Public and Private Schools.” Topic areas will cover issues relating to training of staff and volunteers about sexual abuse and how to prevent it, screening prospective employees to eliminate unsafe applicants, developing codes of standards to identify prohibited boundary violating behaviors, and responding to suspected or disclosed cases of sexual misconduct or abuse. Goals of the event will be to gain support for this core set of safe child standards, detail plans to disseminate these standards nationally, and establish post-conference networking and technical assistance for participants once they return to their communities and schools.
“According to the U.S. Department of Education, 10% or 4.5 million school children K-12 report having had inappropriate sexual contact with someone in their school – in a third of cases, by a teacher or coach,” said MassKids director Jetta Bernier, whose group has been leading the effort to address educator sexual abuse and misconduct in Massachusetts. “Because child sexual abuse is significantly under-reported and few states keep publicly accessible records of school personnel disciplined for inappropriate or illegal behavior, these numbers are likely to be conservative.” She noted that in Pennsylvania, where such records are available, half of the 234 teacher licenses suspended or revoked in one year were for sexual misconduct or abuse.
Private schools are not immune from the threat of sexual abuse. Investigative reporting by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team in 2016 and 2017 has documented sexual abuse of more than 200 students in 67 New England private schools over the past 25 years. Abusers included teachers, coaches, administrators, and other staff members. At the time of the Globe’s reporting, at least 90 students or families had filed lawsuits, 37 school employees had been fired or forced to resign, and nearly two dozen employees had pled guilty or were convicted on criminal charges of sexually abusing children.
Jeff Dion of the National Center for Victims of Crime said the conference would also address the practice known as “passing the trash,” – the failing to report a suspected case of sexual abuse, and allowing or encouraging a school employee to resign, often under a confidentiality agreement which neither police, district attorneys nor parents can open. “We can no longer allow those who abuse children in our schools to get a free pass to seek employment in another school district or state where they can continue to pose a threat to children,” said Dion.
Carmen Durso, whose Boston-based law firm has seen a significant increase in cases brought against schools by former students, pointed to another problematic practice. “Too many schools faced with a credible report of sexual abuse choose to conduct their own internal investigation rather than report to the police or to child protective services as mandated by law,” he said. “The disbelief that a member of their staff could sexually abuse a child, concern about the impact of public disclosure, and the fear of legal retaliation from the alleged abuser, should no longer trump what should be a fundamental priority in every school, that is, keeping our children safe from the devastating impact of child sexual abuse.”
MassKids is a 58-year-old, private child advocacy organization which serves as State Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America and directs the Enough Abuse Campaign to prevent child sexual abuse. It has produced research-based training tools specifically for schools, youth organizations, and parents, as well as policy tools, including “Child Sexual Abuse Safe Child Standards.” It maintains an on-line Resource Bank with over 75 annotated links to a variety of prevention resources for schools. It recently announced “Enough! Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in My School,” a one-hour, interactive online course developed specifically to support schools in addressing sexual misconduct and abuse. www.enoughabuse.org
About The National Center for Victims of Crime
The National Center for Victims of Crime is the nation’s leading resource and advocacy organization serving victims of all types of crime. Founded in 1985, the National Center has a proven record of accomplishment in working across disciplines to effect changes in public policy and culture. It has crafted substantive tools to combat child sex abuse, including its 2014 publication, “Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in Youth-Serving Organizations; Guidelines for Managers and Parents.” As part of its efforts at cross-discipline collaboration, the National Center has convened more than a dozen national-scope conferences. www.ncvc.org
LAW OFFICE OF CARMEN L. DURSO
175 Federal Street, Suite 1425
Boston, MA 02110-2287
Tel: 617-728-9123 – Fax: 617-426-7972
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