As a loving parent, you go above and beyond to protect your children. From baby proofing to training wheels, helmets and knee pads, parents strive tirelessly to ensure their child’s utmost safety. If it were up to you, your child would most likely never leave sight of your watchful eye. However, every child must reach certain milestones in their life and the school years are the most fundamental for growth and development. Unfortunately for both parents and children, these years can come with difficult social situations and dangers that might not be easily recognized.
Types of Abuse at School
For the most part, school administrators and staff perform exceptionally to maintain the safety of their students. Now days, schools utilize tools like video equipment to maintain surveillance in unoccupied areas and metal detectors to ensure that harmful weapons do not make it onto campus. Extra security is also being provided at many schools, which includes on site police patrol. Regrettably, there still isn’t sufficient staff to catch every single mishap within an immense school community.
Most of us have experienced bullying in one form or another. Whether it is verbal taunting or unwelcome physical contact, bullying can have a traumatizing impact on a child’s well being. Sometimes, signs of bullying can be less obvious than a black eye or bruise and it is some of the more subtle signs that could be the most important. With the growing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, “cyber bullying” can take things to a whole new level. Abuse that begins over the Internet, can lead to more serious abuse at school.
Any kind of sexual comment or inappropriate contact is considered sexual harassment. Schools are now enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to this type of behavior. Any comment that makes a child feel uncomfortable is unacceptable, even childish and flirtatious banter that children may not fully understand. Seemingly innocent comments regarding another person’s appearance may be considered sexual harassment. Inappropriate comments, touching, fondling and intercourse are all forms of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is often by the hand of someone your child knows and in some unfortunate cases, these predators could even be one of your child’s teachers. It is important to get to know your child’s teachers and other school administrators.
Signs of Abuse
Many signs of abuse are not visible to the naked eye. Parents hope that the signs are blatant or that their child will immediately notify them of any problems at school, but this is not always the case. Some children are afraid of the consequences of reaching out for help. Whether it is fear of humiliation or retaliation from the abuser, some children may endure the abuse while the parent is left in the dark. Here are a few signs to look for:
* Changes in Behavior- Any sudden change in personality should be monitored. A once outgoing personality that becomes withdrawn or distant may be an indicator that something is wrong.
* Angry Outbursts- If a child begins to act out in an angry manner unexpectedly. Yelling, screaming or fits of anger should be addressed, especially if this is a drastic change in personality.
* Falling Grades/Discipline Issues- Even a gradual decline in your child’s academics could signal problems at school. From poor school grades to an onset of discipline issues, parents should always check with the child AND school about these issues.
* Changes in Art or Music Preference- Children express their feelings in a variety of ways. For younger children who may not be able to articulate, they may begin drawing pictures to show how they feel. These pictures may be abnormally dark in nature and show things like meanness or hurt. Some children may abruptly change their music preference to more aggressive songs, or choose to listen to lyrics of a defiant nature.
How to Prevent and Stop the Abuse
First and foremost, communication is the key to having a healthy relationship with your child. Talk with your child and listen to them, pay attention to any changes in personality or behavior. Always ask questions and keep informed about their friends, teachers and activities. When in doubt, visit the school and meet the teachers and administrators. If you are concerned that your child is hiding something from you, monitor their emails, phone calls and Internet use. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to look for signs in their rooms. Skim over journal entries or notes in search of red flags. Look for drugs or sexual paraphernalia and other suspicious items. It may seem like an invasion of privacy, but it could also save their life. For other valuable links and resources for information on child abuse, please visit The Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center website.