Year: 1996-1997
Month: November
Leader: Group K

Situation/Case Study:

Because two of the teachers are involved with the situation and because of the sensitivity of the issues it was decided to discuss the first incident of the child who turns her chair around and rubs herself against it while class is going on. Further discussion and response revealed that this child claims she doesn't like to be touched by anyone "latches" on to the male teacher. The parents are divorced, mother is remarried and there is a new baby. The child is very attached to the new step dad. She plays hockey, loves sports, dresses and acts like a tomboy, and most of her friends are boys. She's much brighter than she lets on but is currently behind in her work and the rubbing activity seems to absorb her attention during work periods. The teachers are worried about jumping to the conclusion that there is abuse and the child is acting out without enough evidence and are not sure how to communicate the problem to the parent.

A teacher in this situation is frustrated by not knowing how to deal with very distracting and inappropriate behaviors. It is natural for a teacher to be concerned when observing overt behaviors linked to possible sexual abuse and the apparent masturbating activities of a child in a classroom. A teacher can be very frustrated by knowing the legal liability of reporting suspected abuse and yet not wanting to make assumptions and falsely accuse someone of this. There are instances when teachers and parents are falsely accused of abuse and assumed guilty. The child may be either seeking attention because of all the changes in her life or crying for help. How are teachers supposed to know? This is frustrating. The child could have some sort of physical medical problem resulting in the behavior. How does a teacher "confront" a parent with a situation like this?

Theories behind practice:

Impact on others:
Inappropriate behaviors. Behavior change. Sexual abuse. Legal issues. Making assumptions.

Seek advice of other building professionals. Document incidents. Discuss behaviors with parent in non-confrontational manner (does she do this at home?). Move child's chair up to the front (in math class where chair is chosen assign the seat in the front. Discuss behavior with the child and develop nonverbal cues to let her know when she is doing it; create a behavior contract to diminish the behaviors (Behaviorism - Shaping).

During the debriefing the comments kept returning to the experiences various individuals had had or heard about relating to abuse reporting and false accusations made by children and the relevant consequences. There were strong feelings about being between a rock and a hard place when it comes to abuse issues, either reporting them or responding to them. We all had a hard time equating that to theory, other than Maslow.