Vermont Catholics Schools Implement Prevention Program

By Sally Pollak
Burlington Free Press
January 22, 2006

Vermont's Catholic schools have incorporated into their curriculum a program that teaches children about sexual predators and how to protect themselves from potential abuse.

The Child Lures Prevention program that the diocese implemented was created by Ken Wooden of Shelburne, who trained more than 300 diocesan educators and administrators in its use.

The program was implemented in the state's 17 Catholic schools -- 15 primary schools and two high schools -- in November. It will be an annual part of the curriculum, with age-appropriate lessons for students in grades 1-8, said Kevin Scully, director of safe environment programs for the diocese and former Burlington police chief. It will be repeated for high school students, reaching the more than 2,700 students who attend Catholic school in Vermont.

The curriculum, ongoing throughout the school year, involves a discussion of 22 lures -- or techniques -- used by molesters who prey on children, Scully said.

"The program is very comprehensive," he said. "One of the things that the program allows is for the broader discussion to occur with children. Children are very imaginative and sometimes in the effort to make sure they focus on the cogent point of any presentation, we narrow the discussion. This allows it to open up."

The curriculum is the diocese's answer to the call from national church leaders that measures are taken to prevent further abuses of children by priests, Scully said. The implementation of the program is directly related to the criminal activity, disclosed in recent years, of certain priests and church leaders.

"There are levels of intervention that we are going to take to assure that we do not repeat the dark history of the '60s and '70s," Scully said. As a member of the Burlington police force for 29 years, 12 as chief, Scully said he saw his share of child molesters who were repeat offenders. His experience in law enforcement underscores his commitment to prevention, Scully said.

"We've seen it time and time again," Scully said. "Whenever we engage in a very serious, consistent way prevention techniques, we make our respective communities safer no matter what the challenge is."

He said he recognizes and understands that child molesters are treated with "some disdain" by the general public; but he thinks, also, that a certain understanding toward the offender might sometimes be useful.

"Every once in a while, we also have to understand that for some number of offenders, their condition is painful to themselves," Scully said. "It's easy for us to forget that.

"It's all the more reason that we need to really provide an environment, both for children and parents, to have confident, straightforward conversations about these issues in this day and age."

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington has instituted other programs, including one directed at adults, with the same goal. It is committed to spending $100,000 a year for five years on its effort to protect and prevent children and young people from abuse, Scully said.

Contact Sally Pollak at or 660-1859.


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