Washington Post Senior Editor Marc Fisher takes on the subject of sexual abuse in schools, the scandals that follow, and trying to navigate the line between appropriate response and over-the-top reaction. In this piece, excerpted below, our own Dr. Janet Rosenzweig gives her expert opinion on the subject, including tips for schools on how to prevent abusive situations like that in Prince George County from happening in the first place.
Is cleaning house the best way for schools to deal with sexual abuse?
Marc Fisher, Washington Post, 2.17.16
When leaders at Prince George’s County Public Schools announced last week that a volunteer at Judge Sylvania W. Woods Elementary School had allegedly made videos of more than a dozen children performing sex acts, the system’s chief executive put the school’s principal on paid leave.
When Los Angeles school officials found out four years ago that a third-grade teacher had abused dozens of children, including feeding them semen in what he called a tasting game, the system’s superintendent removed all 128 of the school’s staffers — every one of the 88 teachers and 40 janitors, administrators and others.
Sexual-abuse scandals often lead school leaders to promise tighter screening of job applicants, but effective screening against potential abuse is difficult — bordering on impossible, many experts on abuse say. So the search for other ways to protect children has focused on how to create a watchful, but not overbearing, atmosphere inside schools.
Los Angeles Superintendent John Deasy — who ran the Prince George’s system from 2006 to 2008 — got plenty of criticism for hi…