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Public Education or Endangerment?

Are our public schools providing our students with education or abuse and exploitation?

Two Cherokee County teachers have made headlines recently, and it was not for their excellence in education.

On Feb. 21, . In 2008, Peavy and former paraprofessional Nancy Cheek were accused of duct-taping an autistic boy to a chair and confining a blind girl under a desk. They were both arrested in 2009 on counts of false imprisonment and first-degree cruelty to children.

Last Friday, . Watts came under investigation after law enforcement agents were made aware of his involvement in a pedophile community.

As parents, one of our greatest responsibilities is to protect our children. However, every weekday we entrust our children's safety and well-being to others–bus drivers, teachers, coaches–all for the sake of education. For children involved in after-school programs and extracurricular activities, this time is significantly greater. In most cases, public education provides an opportunity for students to obtain the knowledge and skills they will need to pursue their dreams in life. Sadly, for a tragic few, that same education results in nightmares they will face for the rest of their lives.

More and more parents are choosing to home-school their children. This is not an option for many.

Q: How can we better safeguard our children while also providing them with the best education possible?

A: As parents, it is our job to keep our kids safe. But it is also our job to let them grow. The only way we can protect them from every harm that could come their way is by keeping them in our arms at every moment as well. We have to let our children venture out in the world and trust. We send our kids to school and trust that the people caring for them have been properly screened and are good people. We have no choice. I truly believe that if we tried to protect our kids from predators at school, church, the public restroom at the local family-owned restaurant and everywhere else we went, we would drive our kids crazy. We can only do our best in keeping them safe. We cannot shelter them totally and expect them to grow up and be productive members of society. 

I teach my children about stranger safety and even about safety and boundaries with people they know. I teach them at home and send them out in the world and pray they will be safe.

Tammy Bester, mom of 3

A: If I were more motivated and organized, I would love to home-school my children. I believe that is the best way to protect our children from outside harm with the added benefit of determining what my children would be taught. However, at this point in time, our two older children attend public school. Thus far, our four years of public school experience have been wonderful! We have been very fortunate with wonderful teachers, administration and auxiliary personnel at the two Cherokee County schools our children have attended. To me, the next best thing to home-schooling is being able to be actively involved as a volunteer at my kids’ school.

Sadly, this may not always be the case. In preparation for that possibility, I believe it is important to teach children socially acceptable behaviors, both for them and for adults with whom they come in contact.

For many parents, discussions of proper vs. improper touch can be awkward and they would just as soon not talk about it. It is not an easy topic, but I have to think past the awkward.

Of course, physical contact may not always be the danger. As in the cases of abusive actions, I believe it is important for children to feel safe reporting such behaviors.  As a nurse, I am obligated to report the suspicion of abuse. I feel it should be the same with teachers, students and their peers.

Jenny Howard, mom of 3

Leslie Olejnik March 02, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Leslie, Mom of 2 A: My greatest fear being a parent is all about child/teen abduction. It seems it just use to be that smaller children were nabbed from the playground or walking home from school. Now, older kids are being kidnapped from major stores, parking lots, and roadways. Not too long ago a teenager in another state was kidnapped and killed after going out for a jog alone. It's all just very scary to me. I try and remind my girls to pair up like they were taught in Girl Scouts but have to wonder if they truly listen. And Jenny, as for suspicion of abuse, teachers must also report any problems to the principal. I substitute teach and actaully ran into a problem like that in the classroom.
Roxanne DeBord March 06, 2011 at 12:51 AM
I just read about this teacher the other day and it's quite disturbing. We like to think of school systems as safe places for our children, somewhere we can live them eight hours a day with caring, upstanding role models who will help teach and mold our children, but it's crystal clear that this is just not a safe place. It's becoming more and more difficult to resign myself to the fact that my 4 year-old son will begin school next year. It's something I never imagined even having to worry about before being a parent. With stories being released every year about student-teacher relationships, teachers looking at child pornography, teachers and school administration altering test scores, and more, I'm beginning to lose faith in our educational system. I'm criticized by my family for not wanting my children to attend public schools, but, honestly, it's not just public schools I worry about. I just want to find a place I know my children will not only receive a great education, but do so without being abducted, molested, or otherwise harmed. How is this possible, though, unless I home school?
Olga Phillips March 31, 2011 at 02:58 PM
Our current world is a tough place to live. Long gone are the days when we used to be able to roam around, run through each other's farms and trust every adult we came into contact with. Working as an advocate for children who have been abused I find that the most common answer to the question "why didn't you tell anyone about this before?" is, sadly, "I didn't understand what was happening to me". Education, that will always be the best answer. The topics of appropriate and inappropriate touching, sex, drugs and strangers will always be difficult for us parents because it signifies our children are entering a stage in life where knowledge and awareness replaces innocence; however, for our children it may signify the difference between staying emotionally healthy or becoming yet another victim of predators. The way you approach the subject with your children is what will make the difference too. Depending on their age and their capability of discerning information you need to make sure that your message goes across clearly. You don't want to scare them but you do want them to understand and most importantly, remember the message given. Knowledge is the most important survival tool we can provide our children with, and our love and teaching of good choices. After that you can only trust that when the times comes for them to face life, they will remember your words and know what to do.

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