'Little Red Flags or Big Red Flags'
'Little Red Flags or Big Red Flags'
"Ninety percent of solving a problem is recognizing it."
(Larry MacGuffie, Mentor and Friend)
A s a parent who is almost done raising his fifth child, three of them girls, I, along with every other parent put a tremendous amount of trust in the school employees and other adults who interact with our children. In an average day my youngest daughter spends over seven hours in what I would hope would be the safe and protected confines of our public school system. The additional time she spends working at her part time job, church youth group, after school events and any other social engagements that take her out of my sphere of influence only increases the opportunities for her to be taken advantage of by some unscrupulous individual who somehow slipped past my radar or the radar of other responsible authority figures. If your son or daughter is like mine, he or she will spend much more than one half of their waking life with other adults. 1 Because of this, it is critical that my daughter, like your child or children, have the very best moral and ethical leaders at school or anywhere else they can be influenced. It is imperative that each of us know what type of individual is out there looking, or rather lurking for opportunities to take advantage of our children and trust.
I live in a small town in rural America, but that does not necessarily mean my children are any safer or more protected from adults "gone wild" than children in larger communities or schools. In fact, it can sometimes be argued that the opposite is true. In some cases, primarily in the past, smaller school districts have found it very difficult to attract quality teachers. This is generally a choice on the part of the teacher who quite often does not want to work in a small school environment where the pay differentials make it difficult to pay off their college loans and have a life at the same time. In some cases, because of a combination of events where the stars seem to be misaligned, a bad apple is allowed to sneak into the school system. Partly because of the difficulty attracting teachers, some districts have overlooked the "minor" indiscretion or failed to do an extremely thorough background investigation. In either case, the district simply accepted the bare minimum requirements, so they could fill the position. When it comes to deciding who fills these positions and will be near our children, you would hope the hiring authority would do a little more research than just ensuring the applicant has a teaching certificate and is breathing. Unfortunately, this is all that is done in some schools who might be under pressure to fill a teaching position.
In contrast to smaller schools, your children may not be any safer in a larger school system. If a teacher or other school employee has a fascination for children, it can be easier for that person to hide in a larger environment. In these cases, it is simply a matter of numbers. Eventually, due to the larger turnover and number of applicants, it is possible paperwork or steps within the hiring process are missed or even side-stepped. This can also allow the wrong person access to our children.
Even worse is when a school district or one of its administrator's judgment is clouded because of his or her desire to hire or keep a winning coach who has no business being near our children. In 2003, the "Seattle Times" newspaper published a series of articles entitled, "Coaches Who Prey." This well documented series, which actually helped change Washington State law, profiled over one hundred fifty coaches throughout the State of Washington who engaged in inappropriate behaviors with children. To quote one of the articles:
" In a dark side of the g