Former teacher pleads to molesting student, 11

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Approximately 87,000 children were sexually abused in the US in 2001, according to the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Human Services. As many YMCA professionals know, abuse, sexual and otherwise, occurs nearly everywhere. Yet, there is a natural inclination to believe abuse won’t happen in our own communities, not to mention our own YMCA. Awareness of the threat is key, and reinforcing proven abuse prevention strategies is an essential element in protecting the kids in our programs. Both are the goals for our “Abuse Alert” program. Each is a brief treatment of the topic, focussing on one real, recent, public event, gleaned from the media… reprinting the article about the event in its entirety (omitting names and identifying references to the YMCA) and providing a few important teaching points for you to share with your staff. As always, if you need additional guidance on this topic, please call us at 800-463-8546. Although the following incident does not involve a Redwoods insured YMCA, we want to impress upon you the role each of us plays in providing a safe environment.


“Former teacher pleads to molesting student, 11”

SMALL SOUTHERN COASTAL CITY: 07/09/2003 - A former special education teacher could face up to 30 years in prison after pleading no contest Tuesday to molesting an 11-year-old learning-disabled girl. [Abuser], 51, of [address], was charged in December after he confessed to a fellow [elementary school] teacher. [Abuser] told her he had done something “horrible” that could end his teaching career, said Assistant State Attorney [name].

[Abuser] worked with students at [elementary school] in a before and after school program sponsored by the YMCA. According to sheriff's reports, [abuser] was working with the girl on a computer before school. She was sitting on his lap and had turned to hug him when he put his hands down her pants and into her underwear, the reports said. The girl told sheriff's detectives that he asked her if she “liked it.” She told him “no” and asked him to stop, reports said. [Abuser] took his hand out of the victim's pants and walked away, reports state.

[Assistant state attorney] said prosecutors did not offer a deal to get the plea. “He pled straight up. He's going to beg for the mercy of the court,” [Assistant state attorney] said. [Abuser] will be sentenced in August and faces from 61/2 years to 30 years in prison for lewd and lascivious behavior on a child under 12. “I need to talk to the family, but I anticipate that we'll be asking for a significant prison sentence,” [assistant state attorney] said. [Abuser] “knew she was learning-disabled and violated a position of trust,” he said.

[Abuser]'s attorney, [name], could not be reached for comment. [Abuser] did not return a message seeking comment. Detectives began investigating after a school district official informed the Sheriff's Office about [abuser]'s confession to his fellow teacher. Neither [abuser] nor the other teacher knew the girl's last name. The girl attended another elementary school, but attended the YMCA's before-school and after-school programs at [elementary school]. [Abuser] told deputies where the girl's mother worked and what she did. Detectives then located the girl.

[Assistant state attorney] said [abuser] confessed to several people, and confessed to detectives on tape. [Assistant state attorney] said he was not aware of any other victims or incidents involving [abuser].

[Abuser] immediately resigned from his position with the YMCA and was placed on administrative leave with the school district after his arrest in December. He later resigned from the school district. [Abuser] came to teaching late in life, after holding a string of retail jobs. He was a supermarket manager, an assistant foreman for a lumber company and a manager with [retail chain] before applying to be a maintenance worker for the school system. The school district rejected him three times for jobs as a furniture repairman and maintenance man.

[Elementary school] hired him as a teacher's aide. [Abuser] worked at [name] and [name] elementaries while going to college to earn his teaching degree. In 2000, he was promoted to a full-time teaching position at [elementary school], where he worked with learning-disabled students. He also taught English as a second language.


What we do know:

  • The first directive on the YMCA of the USA’s Child Abuse Prevention Code of Conduct says “In order to protect YMCA staff, volunteers, and program participants – at no time during a YMCA program may a staff person be alone with a single child where they cannot be observed by others…
  • A highly emphasized point in abuse prevention training is that no staff member should ever have a participant sitting on her or his lap.
    • The main reason is to protect the staff member from allegations of impropriety and the appearance of misbehavior.
    • A secondary reason is to remove any potential for temptation of the staff member.
    • The tertiary reason (so considered only because we normally believe our staff has been properly screened and trained…actually it is primary) is to protect the child.
  • The abuse was reported by a fellow teacher after it was confessed to her (…the system worked)

What we don’t know:

  • If the abuser had any past history of abuse or if this was a instance of situational abuse created by opportunistic protocols prompting a latent behavioral defect
  • What screening, training, or controls were employed by the YMCA

What we can do:

  • Consider…
    • Is it truly accidental if we don’t do all we know to do to prevent an occurrence?
    • Have we no complicity if non-action or lax protocols provide aid or abetment?
  • Act…
    • Be diligent… follow all of the rules all the time… make no exceptions…
    • Be careful… protect your children… protect your staff…

Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.

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