Would you know a sex offender if you saw one?

As if you didn’t already have enough things to worry about, take a look at this chilling video from the state of Indiana. This is a sex offender training overview featuring interviews with investigators and a former teacher who was convicted of child sex abuse. Warning: This video is graphic in content and goes into detail about how this predator disguised himself so that he could abuse children. While there is no detailed sexual content the video can be disturbing for sensitive viewers.

Would you know a school sex offender? The Answer is “probably not”.

What should be the most alarming piece is the number of missed instances that the sexual predator describes. Each time someone would become suspicious, he would evade detection by being a diligent worker and respected colleague.  At one point he states – “It felt like a lot of stuff was ignored. A lot of stuff was ignored.”

Chuck Cohen of the Indiana State Police adds that in many cases, those who reported abuse were not sure if they should. He reported comments like “I almost didn’t call you – but I thought I should” in cases of real abuse that was prosecuted. And of course, we know that sex offenders come in all ages and can be male or female.

Here are some tips for educators from the video:

  • Educators who try to do their own investigation, determine victims or scope of abuse can quickly result in destroyed evidence.
  • Talking to the alleged victim or other students to determine “what actually happened” before reporting the incident can violate privacy and destroy evidence.
  • Confronting the alleged offender yourself can hinder the investigation later.
  • Talking to the alleged victim in front of the offender or interviewing the offender in front of the victim should NEVER be done.
  • Do not wait until you have absolute certainty – that will probably be too late.

Remember – if you are reading this, you are probably a Mandatory Reporter because of your job or state law. This means you are required to IMMEDIATELY report any suspicion to law enforcement or your states child protective agency. While this is often loosely defined, realize that even a short delay can allow further victimization to take place and evidence to be destroyed.

“Legally, if you do not report something you are required to report, you are committing a crime.”

The video also describes how most law enforcement investigations of suspected child abuse are low-key and designed to avoid disrupting the school environment. The best way to protect the victim’s privacy and to avoid violating the privacy of alleged offenders is to immediately notify law enforcement and let them handle the investigation.

Indiana Department of Education: Sexual Predator Awareness video

Warning: This video contains graphic information and detailed descriptions of sexual predator assaults:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hxuISh6HIc

School Safety Post-Election: Dealing with Hate speech and bullying

School Safety Post Election: Dealing with Hate Speech and Bullying

The last few weeks have been very difficult for the United States as a nation. In the aftermath of the election it is easy for some to feel alienated no matter who you voted (or did not vote) for. It is important to remember that this same effect can easily affect our children and the school environment, particularly when it comes to hate speech. It is critical now more than ever that we maintain our schools as a safe haven for all students and staff. There is and has always been an interdependence between safety, school climate and academic achievement. It is very difficult to excel in any one of these areas without the others.

[Related: Ask Safe Havens: How safety affects school climate and academic achievement https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgWdkOYlJCE ]

Various organizations are now reporting skyrocketing numbers of incidents of harassment, hate speech and hate-based vandalism across the country. As of this writing there have been hundreds of reported incidents to the Southern Poverty Law Center and The Anti-Defamation League. During these times we should remember the following fundamentals:

  • Review your policies on bullying, harassment and hate speech, and update as needed.
  • Be prepared to respond to reported incidents seriously by following appropriate procedures
  • Make students aware of proper avenues for dealing with harassment, hate speech and bullying.
  • Remember your security basics: access control, visitor management and supervision. Many incidents affecting schools, internal or external, can be prevented or mitigated through these basic measures.

Look for more detailed discussion on ways to address these concerns in our upcoming issue of School Safety Monthly.

Some additional resources for handling hate speech:

The Anti-Defamation League has an incident reporting form as well as resources for handling incidents of hate speech and harassment: http://adl.org/

The Ad Council has a series of videos that could be used to engage in positive discussion about these topics:
https://www.youtube.com/user/adcouncil

School Safety Planning Templates Sample