Prior to the start of the school this month, St. Charles Parish Public Schools (SCPPS) partnered with Child Advocacy Services (CAS) to train over 1,400 teachers and education professionals, helping them spot suspected instances of child abuse.
The program, called “Darkness to Light Active Bystander Training,” was put on by trained CAS facilitators who provided teachers and staff with tools to help educators help prevent, recognize signs and responsibly react to child sexual abuse.
“Teachers and staff were provided with examples of boundary violations and inappropriate behaviors, and how you can make spontaneous and planned interventions that reinforce boundaries and protect children,” Jordyn G’Sell, CAS Prevention Services Coordinator, said. “Participants were provided with examples of situations that may present themselves, as well as the tools and strategies needed to intervene.”
During the training, CAS presenters supplied SCPPS staff with an overview of available resources, a training video, as well as an open discussion on spotting abuse and proper reporting procedures. Staff now have access to a streamlined reporting process, where teachers can use a special QR code taking them directly to an online portal where they can report suspected abuse to the proper authorities.
“All teachers by law in Louisiana are mandated reporters,” G’Sell explained. “This means they are mandated to report instances or suspected instances of abuse and/or neglect of a child to a law enforcement agency, Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), etc. Our teachers need the knowledge and confidence to report when needed, so that our children can learn in a safe environment.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), child abuse and neglect cases have become all too common in the United States. The CDC estimates at least one in seven children in the U.S. has experienced child abuse or neglect in the past year. As of June, the DCFS reported there were 1,668 child abuse cases within Louisiana with open investigations.
The training for teachers and staff this year was deemed critical given the amount of harm child abuse can cause to a typical school-age child, should the abuse continue to carry on unchecked and unreported.
“School age children who have experienced abuse are at higher risk of developing depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical health problems and relational issues,” G’Sell mentioned. “If the abuse goes unreported, the possible effects of abuse can become long-term problems.”
St. Charles Parish Public School System officials said the recent training was included this year as part of its regular professional learning and development program, which the school system conducts at the beginning of each school year for teachers on various subjects.
“These trainings present a variety of topics, including strategies to enhance a safe and secure learning environment for all students and employees,” Tresa Webre, SCPPS Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Administrative Services, said. “We are appreciative of the opportunity to collaborate with Child Advocacy Services to further hone our skills through their expertise, and initial feedback received has been very positive.”
CAS is a private, non-profit umbrella agency providing services through the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program, the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) Program, and other services. CAS offers its services in 10 parishes, including Ascension, Livingston, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James and St. John.
For more information on CAS and its services, or to become a volunteer, visit www.childadv.net.