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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sexual abuse in our schools

Here is a topic that few people want to talk about - sexual abuse of children in schools. It maybe our reverence for teachers or a general state of denial, but these cases just don't make the news. To make matters worse, those that are made public are treated with fascination - "what teenager wouldn't want to sleep with his teacher." When a case is reported for what it truly is, it is still treated as an isolated matter, creating the impression that sexual abuse is virtually non-existent. And yet the problem is widespread and much worse, as recently reported by the special AP investigation.

There are 3 million of teachers in the nation and it seems that teachers are just as prone to molestation as the Roman Catholic priests. And just like the priests, most teachers are being protected by their school districts. Like similar rape cases, most of the abuse incidents don't get reported. When the cases are reported, there is a general sense of embarrassment, which somehow translates into denial. The school districts then engage in practices known as "passing on the trash" or "mobile molester", basically amounting to accepting a resignation letter from the abusive teacher and not revoking their teaching licenses.

We are taught to respect and listen to our teachers - maybe that prevents us from recognizing that they are human beings who have the same weaknesses as the general population. There is also enormous stigma connected to sexual abuse, causing the victims hide the truth. Only ten percent of all abuse cases in schools are reported and only a small fraction of reported abusers are punished in any significant way.

You can read the report here.


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