Focus on Prevention to Combat Child Abuse

 Keenan Blog

Focus on Prevention to Combat Child Abuse

April 11, 2022

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, an annual observance since 1983 to recognize the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. The role of educational agencies in preventing child abuse is critical to deter those intent on doing harm. As the leading provider of insurance and risk management solutions for California school systems, AP Keenan is again participating with the ReLiEF joint powers authorities, and the California School Boards Association to promote and provide resources for Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The key word in this April observance is “Prevention!” To protect children effectively, we must stop abuse before it starts. The requirement for Mandated Reporter training was an important and positive step, but it only addresses the problem after abuse happens. A comprehensive plan to keep children safe from exploitation involves districts developing board policies or administrative regulations specifically establishing appropriate adult-student boundaries and interactions between students and staff. Training must also go beyond Mandated Reporter requirements. We must educate teachers, staff and school volunteers on observing appropriate boundaries with students, avoiding situations that could expose them to false accusations and understanding the ramifications of non-compliance with such policies. Such a strong and visible abuse prevention plan creates a powerful deterrent against perpetrators acting in the school environment.

Our ReLiEF Child Abuse Prevention Resource Page provides school districts everywhere with easily-implemented resources to raise awareness, establish policies and procedures, and train staff to prevent child abuse. As part of the promotion of Child Abuse Prevention Month, we’re encouraging districts to test their knowledge and learn about the resources available to them with an opportunity to win a $2,500 educational grant. Districts must participate in the ReLiEF JPAs to be eligible to win.

The significance of taking a high-profile stand against child abuse cannot be underestimated. Sexual abuse in schools is the single largest liability risk schools face, as one in ten K-12 pupils will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee. It is essential that all school districts develop a strong foundation for preventing exploitation of children in schools. The best practices for comprehensive abuse prevention are illustrated in the handout, “Is Your House In Order?” Clear communication that there is no tolerance for child abuse along with unambiguous expectations to comply with staff boundary and behavior protocols make a huge difference in keeping children safe.

Of course, our efforts and diligence must extend throughout the year – beyond the month of April – if we are to end the tragedy of child abuse and exploitation in our schools and our communities. This month we are raising awareness of the issue, but ongoing risk management, staff training, and refinement of policies and procedures must continue every day. We will remain at the forefront to keep child abuse prevention a top priority and provide innovative solutions to protect the most vulnerable members of our communities.