In 1982, I worked in a Headstart center, I had only been out of college for two years. I worked in the room with the 3 and 4 year olds. One day, one of our little girls had an accident, and she didn’t have any clothes in her cubby. We called the house, and the uncle agreed to bring a change of clothes.
When the uncle arrived, he was asked to change her clothes in the bathroom. As he led her to the bathroom, she began screaming, and pulling away from him. I couldn’t understand why she would react this way, after all, it was her uncle. Weeks later, we found out that the uncle had been molesting her. Her screams were a cry for help, and I feel like I failed her. I use the present tense, because every time I hear a story about child abuse, I think of that little girl’s screams. I failed that little girl.
I realize that we are overwhelmed in our classrooms. We are required to be all things to our students, but I don’t mind being this one. I don’t mind being one of the people who just might see something and do something about. I don’t mind being the one trying to find out why a student is suddenly withdrawn, or aggressive, or acting out sexually. I don’t mind being in a role where maybe, just maybe, I can help.
The Penn State situation is so sad because they knew, not one person, but many. Those poor boys, they were expendable. Was there no one they could tell? No one who saw the signs? No one who heard their screams? I am not blaming their teachers, by any means. But sometimes when our students “act out”, we take it personally. We shut them out, medicate them, or give them consequences that simply add to their isolation. We can’t ignore the signs. We must not ignore the signs. Let us protect our children.
President Obama said “Our first priority is protecting our kids, and we all have a responsibility — we can’t leave it to a system, we can’t leave it to somebody else. Each of us has to take it upon ourselves to make sure that our kids have the love and support and protection that they deserve.” I agree 100%!