A Real Solution to the Infinitesimal Cases of Child Predators in Our Schools

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Pat Toomey is obsessed with child predators in our public schools.

When I came to Washington, D.C., this summer to visit 
the U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, he was lobbying to get his “Passing the Trash” bill included in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

His proposed legislation – now part of the Senate version of the ESEA – would ban school districts from helping known pedophiles from finding teaching jobs at different schools. Toomey is hopeful the provision will remain in the final version of the law that eventually will reach President Obama’s desk.

I met with his education aide who cheerily told me her job was to comb through the nation’s newspapers everyday and count the number of teachers accused of acting inappropriately with children. I’d mention issues like inequitable funding, standardized testing and Common Core. She’d solemnly quote back the number she’d found in her research.

There was definitely a disconnect between our priorities. After all, I’m a public school teacher. I work in our school system everyday. She and her boss only know about our schools through what they read in the newspaper. And according to the media every school in American houses child predators. They lurk behind every corner protected by administrators, superintendents and unions.

However, the facts do not back this up.

The Associated Press held a landmark investigation in 2007 to discover the extent of the problem. Reporters sought disciplinary records in all 50 states and the District of Columbia over a 5 year period. The investigation found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned following allegations of sexual misconduct. About 70% of those cases involved children being victimized.

There is no glossing over it. The number is disgusting and startling. However, it is far from the national epidemic the media and Toomey are touting.

There are more than 3 million teachers in this country. This report found that 1 in 800,000 may be a child predator. That’s .00083%.

In other words, your child is more likely to be struck by lightning than be the victim of a child predator at school (1 in 134,906).

Other things more likely to happen include dying in an airplane crash (1 in 7,178), death on the job (1 in 48,000), and being murdered (1 in 18,000).

I don’t mean to be glib. One teacher betraying a young person’s trust in this way is one too many.

I’m glad Toomey is pursuing this legislation. I even support it.

However, I don’t like the slander and libel against the great majority of teachers. I don’t like how we’re all being painted with the same brush – even when it is done in the cause of making it more difficult for child predators.

I’ve been a public school teacher for almost 15 years. In that time, I have never met a single teacher who I would be uncomfortable letting babysit my 6-year-old daughter. Even when I was a student, myself, back in the 1980s and 90s, I never had a teacher who I was afraid would molest me or my classmates.

Compare this to the sex scandals in the Roman Catholic Church. A review by American Catholic bishops found about 4,400 of 110,000 priests were accused of molesting minors from 1950 through 2002. That’s .04% or 1 in 400. Sure the timescale involved is much longer than the AP study of educators, but the pool of priests is also much smaller. It would seem children are more in danger in houses of worship than houses of learning.

However, none of this helps people like Toomey pass legislation. You can’t say this doesn’t happen much, but we need to stop it. No one would vote for it. There would be no sense of urgency.

It’s just that in dramatizing the situation the Senator and his ilk are defaming the majority of teachers who would never even consider hurting a child.

The truth is not politically expedient. Child predation in schools is not a quantitative issue. It’s a qualitative one.

You don’t need large numbers of children to be hurt in this way for us to take the problem seriously. Even a small number, even a single instance, is enough to require action. No child should ever feel unsafe in school. No child should ever be victimized in these hallowed halls – especially by the very people who have devoted their lives to help them.

So I think Toomey’s right. We should pass his legislation. We should take steps to stop this kind of thing from ever happening in our schools.

And if we’re really serious, I have a solution that no one seems to be talking about: Let’s hire more teachers.

Stay with me here. Child predators almost always act alone. This sort of crime requires the perpetrator to have time undisturbed with the victim. Yet what do we have in our public schools? We’ve slashed and burned school budgets until there are fewer teachers and more students than ever. Class sizes have ballooned. It’s not uncommon for teachers to have upwards of 20, 30 even 40 children in one classroom.

This is the perfect breeding ground for child predators. They are more unsupervised than ever. They can do as they please and no one will catch them until it’s too late. Even principals and other administrators have less time to observe what goes on in the classroom because they’re unduly burdened with ridiculous amounts of paper work required to ensure every teacher gets a junk science value-added evaluation.

But if we hired more teachers, we could reduce this problem. We could even take the majority of these new teachers and put them together in the classroom. We could initiate a nationwide co-teaching initiative.

There would be challenges. You’d have to be careful to pair educators together that are compatible and can work well together. However, it would be worth it.

Few teachers would be alone with a class of students. There would almost always be another adult in the room. If another teacher was doing something fishy, it would be observed and probably reported. Moreover, the mere presence of another educator would be a huge deterrent to even trying something funny.

And this would solve our class size conundrum. You might still have larger classes, but the ratio between teacher and student would be halved. Educational outcomes would increase. Students would get more individual attention. They’d learn more. Teachers would be less stressed having someone else to shoulder the burden. And having an influx of new middle class jobs would boost our flagging economy.

This is a win-win.

Of course, it would cost some major bucks. It would require a lot of work from our nations lawmakers and policy wonks. But how could they really say ‘no’? After all, it’s being done to protect children!

From an economic standpoint, we already spend 54% of our federal budget on wars and the military. Only 6% is spent on education. It seems astoundingly unlikely that we can’t afford adding these jobs, increasing children’s educational outcomes, boosting the economy and protecting children – all in one sweep!

So, Senator Toomey, after your measure gets adopted in the final ESEA, I suggest you spearhead this new mission. After all, your bill will help, but co-teaching will almost eliminate the problem. Even if we had all children take classes exclusively on-line, it wouldn’t stop child predators from getting to them. (Heck! Predators thrive on the Web!) But co-teaching could make a real appreciative difference.

If we really want to stop students from being victimized in school, we need more teachers.


NOTE: This article was also published in the LA Progressive.

 

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4 thoughts on “A Real Solution to the Infinitesimal Cases of Child Predators in Our Schools

  1. I question why Toomey is focusing on public school teachers. How about teachers in private sector charter schools or even private schools that get no public money? I remember that to become a teacher back in 1976 and to work with children, I had to be fingerprinted and the background check included the FBI making sure I wasn’t a convicted former felon.

    I can see that it would be difficult and probably dangerous to criticize Toomey’s obsession with teachers as sexual child molesters, but I am going to do just that even at the risk of being criticized myself. Does his bill also include private sector Charter schools or are they exempt as they seem to be for almost all legislation that’s used to harass, monitor and/or guide and destroy public schools? If not, then I think his obsession is just another attack on the public schools. Did you ask him what the government is doing to monitor sex offenders in the country’s growing private sector charter schools—that are almost always opaque and often fraudulent in addition to being worse or no better than the public schools they are replacing—where teachers can be hired without a teaching credential or a criminal background check?

    I mean, it isn’t like the United States doesn’t already have laws that focus on sexual predators of children.

    For instance, there’s California’s Megan’s Law that was enacted in 1994. I read on Megan’s Law’s Website that all states now have some form of Megan’s Law.

    “Not all sex offenders have been caught and convicted. Many sex offenses are committed by family, friends or acquaintances of the victim.”

    Megan’s Law is name for a federal law, and informal name for subsequent state laws, in the United States requiring law enforcement authorities to make information available to the public regarding registered sex offenders. Laws were created in response to the murder of Megan Kanka. Federal Megan’s Law was enacted as a subsection of the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act of 1994, which merely required sex offenders to register with local law enforcement.[1][2] Since only few states required registration prior to Megan’s death, the state level legislation to bring states in compliance —with both the, registration requirement of Jacob Wetterling Act and community notification required by federal Megan’s Law— were crafted simultaneously and are often referred as “Megan’s Laws” of individual states. Thus, federal Megan’s Law refers to community notification (making registry information public), whereas state level “Megan’s Law” may refer to both, sex offender registration and community notification.

    A December 2008 study of the law in New Jersey concluded that it had no effect on community tenure (i.e., time to first re-arrest), showed no demonstrable effect in reducing sexual re-offenses, had no effect on the type of sexual re-offense or first time sexual offense (still largely child molestation), and had no effect on reducing the number of victims of sexual offenses. The authors felt that given the lack of demonstrated effect of the law on sexual offenses, its growing costs may not be justifiable.[7]

    http://meganslaw.ca.gov/sexreg.htm

    “the number of registered sex offenders in the United States has increased by nearly a quarter in the last five years. The total in the most recent survey was 747,408, up from 606,816 in 2006, the first year NCMEC did a count. … Yet his group does not say how many of the 747,408 people listed on sex offender registries are predatory criminals who actually pose a threat to public safety, probably because it does not know.”

    https://reason.com/blog/2012/01/23/out-of-747408-registered-sex-offenders-h
    1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
    Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
    During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
    Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
    Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.
    According to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well (page 5).
    A Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows 1.6 % (sixteen out of one thousand) of children between the ages of 12-17 were victims of rape/sexual assault (page 18).
    A study conducted in 1986 found that 63% of women who had suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported a rape or attempted rape after the age of 14. Recent studies in 2000, 2002, and 2005 have all concluded similar results (page 8).

    https://www.victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/child-sexual-abuse-statistics

    Have you seen “Spotlight”, the film?

    Like

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