Friday, December 4th | 18 Kislev 5781

August 21, 2015 12:18 pm

Back to School – How to Protect Your Children

avatar by Shani Verschleiser

Jewish students. Photo: Provided photo.

Jewish students. Photo: Provided photo.

Summer is coming to an end; it seems that it goes faster and faster each year. School is almost upon us, and if you’re like most mothers you have your checklist written out or in your phone under Notes. School supplies, done; uniforms, done; paid for school lunch, pending (if I can convince my kid to eat it). OK, you feel ready; well, have you taken care of their safety? Most of our schools have the best intentions. They want to do right by our children and they make many efforts to make sure they are learning well and have the best possible experiences in school.  

There is, however, an area where many schools drop the ball; whether this is from lack of knowledge, lack of means, or lack of experience, I don’t know. What I do know is that you are your child’s best advocate and the one who can make real change in our children’s safety. It can be very intimidating and even frightening to approach your child’s principal and request certain protocols be implemented, but believe me it’s even more frightening and devastating when abuse occurs on the school’s watch, and knowing it could have been prevented.  

Think about it like this; would you ever go over to someone on the street (even a Jew) and ask them to please guard your wallet or diamond ring for about 6-8 hours and say you’ll be back to pick it up? Most of us would not, however, we don’t think twice when we drop off our most precious jewels, our children, at school, at camp, at Sunday programs, at boys choirs practice, etc., without so much as a single question about their safety.  

We at Magenu believe it is very important to speak to your children about personal safety, safe and unsafe touches, trusted adults, no secrets etc., but always keep in mind that those children will make mistakes. The onus is not on them, but rather on the adults in their lives.  

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Therefore, I am asking all of our parents and trusted adults to please protect them. How do you do this? Well, I can tell you that screaming and demanding is not the way (no one wants to hear from the “crazy” mommy who’s screaming and crying. Believe me, I know this all too well because I was her and it wasn’t pretty). Put together a list of what you’d like to ask, and make an appointment with the principal. Calmly discuss what you would like to see happen and why you feel it is so important. School staff work with children all day as their life’s work, I’m pretty sure they believe children are important as well.  

Here are some examples of what you may want to know:

  • What are hiring practices in the school? Reference checks? Background checks? What about substitutes, therapists etc.?
  • Are teachers trained in child abuse indicators, possible disclosures, and mandated reporting guidelines?
  • Are there behavioral standards that all staff in the school are required to adhere to, and if they do not, what are the steps taken?
  • Does every room in the school have a window so others can see in (this includes therapy rooms, janitor closets etc.)? If not, is there a camera in that specific room?
  • Are there cameras set up in places in the school that cannot be easily seen, such as stairwells or hallways?
  • Do the older kids and younger kids have separate bathrooms?
  • What are the protocols for pick-up of students? Is there a list of who can and who can’t? If someone shows up who is not on the list, do they call you?
  • Is staff ever allowed to be one on one with a student such as going out of school for pizza as a treat or being pulled out of class for a special project? If so what are the rules surrounding that?

These are just some examples of topics that all youth serving organizations need to think about. It’s very difficult for us to accept that times are what they are, but unfortunately burying our heads in the sand is one method that is proven to be ineffective. Remember, what attracts wonderful amazing teachers also attracts predators and child molesters.  

Our goal is to never accuse, but to be aware and protective.  The motto should always be trust and verify. Rome was not built in a day, but the more we ask, the more we expect, the more we advocate for our own children, the safer all our Jewish children will be. The scary truth is, if something does occur, where will you be left? You never even asked!

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