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We have all seen the despicable headlines. "Teacher Found Guilty of Having Sexual Affair With Student." Headlines like these send waves of shock and fear through the average parent.  

Unfortunately, it is only a small number of incidents of adults molesting and assaulting our children that make the newspapers. A review of any big city police blotter will reveal that an astonishing number of cases like these happen every day. You may think that this could never happen to your child. The sad fact however is that it is happening all across the country on a regular basis.  

Not very long ago, parents worried about their little girl becoming a victim. In our current society, parents need to worry about all of their children – boys and girls. It is not only the adult males that perpetrate theses crimes now – but the adult females as well. Statistics indicate that these incidents are occurring in grade school all the way through high school.  

The first step in protecting your child is to understand how the process usually works and the signs of potential trouble that you can look out for. This article will focus primarily on the school setting. Future articles will examine this issue from a broader perspective and will present the techniques of the "victim grooming" process in much greater detail.

Let me begin by stating that the overwhelming majority of teachers are dedicated professionals that would never hurt or exploit a child. There are however some teachers that have poor personal boundaries. These teachers are usually over concerned about being popular with the students.  

Many such teachers fall into the trap of trying to be a friend to the student – instead of being a friendly teacher. Remember that teachers really act as parent "stand-ins" when they are with our kids at school. Therefore, they should display parental like boundaries and limits toward our children.  

Teachers are not there to be our children's friends. They are there to give grades and to teach. Within these responsibilities, they are also accountable for providing physical, social, and emotional safety within the classroom. Acting like a child's peer instead of a teacher, is usually the first opening tactic of an abuser.  

Here are some warning signs of potential trouble

-A teacher acts, dresses, and talks like the students

-A teacher tends to spend time alone (no other adults present) with a child or group of children

-A teacher buys gifts and/or gives special attention to a child or a special group of children

-A teacher discusses their personal life in front of a child or in front of the class

-A teacher asks a student inappropriate sexually oriented questions

-A teacher texts, sends instant messages, or calls students without notifying the parents

-A teacher seems to have no friends among his or her own peers.

Let me make it perfectly clear that none of these signs mean that a sexual predator is at work. Many times they are simply the result of a teacher's poor or immature judgment. However, if you do notice these things occurring, they should raise a red flag for you.  

If you have concerns, I would recommend that you take the following steps:

-Write down your concerns being as specific as you can. Include dates and times if possible.

-Schedule a meeting with a school administrator. Be calm and describe your concerns. Ask that you be informed if any action is taken.

-Talk to your child about what happened and how they feel about it. Is your child confused – or worried – or scared? Give your child a safe opportunity to share their feelings and concerns with you. Some of your child's responses may surprise you. An adolescent male for example, may feel proud that he is receiving the attention of an adult female! If having such discussions is an uncomfortable process for you right now, please refer to my earlier articles on having meaningful discussions with your child. Share this information with the administrator.

Remember that no one loves your children like you do and on one is as concerned about their safety as you are. Stay vigilant and involved in your child's education – and ALWAYS be aware of the adults that are in your child's life.  

**James is a Masters level Child Psychologist and Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has worked with distressed families for 40 years. He is the author of the Seamus the Sheltie series of children's books that were designed to assist parents in discussing difficult issues with younger children. Both books have received multiple national awards from parenting organizations. Mr. Beverly has written and published articles on parenting in a variety of media.


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