7:45 AM - Breakfast and Networking
8:45 AM - Welcome and Framework for Today’s Skill Building Sessions
Jetta Bernier ~ Executive Director, MassKids and the Enough Abuse Campaign
No single strategy can be implemented that would ensure the safety of every child in a school or youth-serving organization. Comprehensive strategies and resources are needed to prevent child sexual abuse from ever occurring. State and national groups are building consensus around a new set of Safe-Child Standards which schools and youth organizations should be implementing to better protect the children they serve, support their staff, and reduce institutional liabilities. These standards will be briefly highlighted as the framework for today’s skill-building sessions.
9:00 AM - The Continuum of Misconduct: A Framework to Better Understand and Address Child Sexual Abuse
Inappropriate use of power and the taking on of self-serving rather than student-serving roles by school personnel are fundamental elements on the continuum of boundary-violating behaviors that can lead to misconduct of all kinds, including sexually-motivated actions and legally reportable sexual offenses by school employees.
Included on the continuum are individuals from diverse backgrounds who commit a spectrum of different acts for a broad range of reasons. On one end are true pedophiles whose power needs violate students and the law; they must be reported immediately to law enforcement and their access to children removed. Opportunistic abusers are those whose psychological vulnerabilities result in a series of poor choices that lead to sexually exploitative behaviors; their outcomes vary considerably depending on the acts committed and the degree to which they gain insight and take full responsibility for their actions.
Still there are others who lack sexual motivations and also insight or self-awareness about how boundary-crossing behaviors negatively impact students. Challenges to their behavior can lead to opportunities for personal and professional development. With guidance from administrators trained to respond to boundary crossings, some of these individuals can correct concerning behaviors and safely resume their careers.
This session will provide a conceptual framework through which administrators can understand “the slippery slope” of inappropriate behaviors and the importance of early identification and response to reduce the likelihood of serious misconduct and illegal offenses.
David Wolowitz, Esq. ~ Director, Education Law Group, New Hampshire; Partner and Head of the Education Practice Group at McLane Middleton.
9:55 AM - Break
10:00 AM - Code of Conduct: Meeting the New Evolving Standard of Care
Adopting a code of conduct that details model behaviors and those that cross appropriate boundaries is essential to protect children, reduce boundary violations of staff, and mitigate against negative publicity and legal liability resulting from incidences of sexual misconduct and abuse. Key prevention policies being promoted by groups including, MassKids, Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey, the National Independent School Task Force on Educator Sexual Misconduct, and the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation are evolving into a new “Standard of Care” for schools and youth-serving organizations. How can they be incorporated into current policies and practices in a realistic, yet timely way?
This session will describe key elements of a comprehensive code of conduct and ways to engage employees, parents and other stakeholders in developing, adopting and promoting the Code to create a safer organizational culture for both children and adults.
Rush Russell ~ Executive Director, Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey
11:00 AM - Responding Early and Confidently to Boundary Violations
Employees are essential in creating a culture of safety and are the key to eliminating and reducing opportunities for misconduct and abuse. They can model healthy interactions, directly intervene when a colleague crosses a boundary, and report concerns to administrators. Having a code of conduct that is understood by all is key.
Perhaps more challenging is how to address inconsistent behavior and potential violation of those standards. Educators are often reluctant about sharing concerns about colleagues, and most administrators receive little to no training around having difficult conversations and investigating concerns. Sometimes, because we have had our own difficult and painful experiences, and sometimes because the topics themselves cause us discomfort.
With the critical need to focus on early identification of boundary crossing behaviors, comes the need for faculty leaders and administrators to develop the skills they need to respond appropriately. Most schools and youth organizations, however, don’t prepare them to provide feedback, document concerns, and address boundary missteps.
This session will address strategies for handling common responses to behavioral feedback including defensiveness and anxiety, having productive discussions, and setting clear expectations. This session will lead administrators through a demonstration that will provide a road map on how to conduct these sensitive interviews so that response policies can be developed and implemented across any misconduct situation.
Quincy McLaughlin, MSW ~ Head of Upper School, Hillside School, Ann Arbor; formerly Dean of Student Well-Being, Hotchkiss School, Connecticut
12:00 PM - Lunch
12:30 PM - Jon Seiger ~ International Jazz musician and entertainer
Jon Seiger was just a month into seventh grade when he was first sexually abused on an overnight school trip by a teacher-chaperone. Between that night and Jon's 1979 graduation, he would be molested or raped, "hundreds of times" by eight faculty members at Horace Mann, an elite 127-year-old private school in the Bronx that counts members of Congress, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, scientists and leaders of industry among its alumni. According to an independent investigation led by Judge Leslie Crocker, Jon was one of at least 63 students who were sexually abused by 22 former Horace Mann staff between 1962 and 1996.
Jon will share his unique perspectives on the impact of sexual abuse on children and how schools and youth organizations are positioned to play a leadership role in changing the culture of safety for children, not only in the institutions that serve them, but in our communities at large.
1:00 PM - Screening Strategies to Minimize Hiring Risky Employees
Most school and YSO employees are deeply committed to the well-being of children, however, a small number seek positions in these settings to gain access to children for sexually exploitive purpose. Putting better safeguards in place to deter unsuitable applicants can reduce the risks, particularly in light of the limitations of criminal background checks.
This session will discuss how educator sexual misconduct cases in Stamford schools led to the statewide adoption of a standard protocol for screening new employees, the prohibition against aiding an employee engaged in sexual misconduct to secure work in another school, and legal protections for information sharing among schools. Connecticut (2016) and Massachusetts (2018) are among 8 states to have passed or introduced laws requiring these tougher screening standards for school and/or YSOs.
Dr. Rinaldi, an outspoken advocate in the move to end the practice of “passing the trash” in his state, will demonstrate how the new screening tool is being included in the interview process. A 4-minute video that schools and YSOs can localize and show to prospective applicants during the in-person interview will be presented as a model for underscoring an organization’s commitment to child safety and its zero tolerance of sexual misconduct.
Michael Rinaldi, Ed.D. ~ Principal, Westhill High School, Stamford, CT
1:45 PM - Preventing Youth Sexual Harassment and Assaults: Resources for Administrators
Middle and High-School youth, ages 12 to 19, experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault of any group in the total population. In one study, nearly half of students Grades 7 to 12 reported experiencing sexual harassment in the previous year, with 87% describing negative effects, such as absenteeism and poor sleep. We know that sexual harassment erodes school engagement, alienates students from their teachers, breaks down relationships among students, and negatively affects academic achievement. But there is good news: More than ever before, there are effective strategies and tools available to help school systems and youth organizations address the problem.
In this session, Ms. Finn will discuss how organizations can audit their current response to sexual harassment/assaults, how staff can be empowered to prevent and respond timely and effectively to inappropriate behaviors, and how administrators can implement policies to create safe environments for youth.
Justine Finn, ED.M ~ Founder, Relation-Shift, Harvard Innovation Lab
2:30 PM - Break
2:45 PM - Evidence-Informed Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Education Training for School Employees and Administrators
According to a U.S. Department of Education report 4.5 million students are subjected to sexual misconduct by a school employee sometime between Kindergarten and 12th Grade. Federal law through Title IX requires schools to have procedures in place to protect students from sexual abuse by school personnel. However, 87% of teachers surveyed said they were unaware of signs that might indicate child sexual abuse and did not feel equipped to deal with the issue.
Given the impact of child sexual abuse and trauma on learning difficulties, memory deficits, social/emotional learning, academic failure, and long-term physical and mental health, schools must address the issue if they are to ensure the educational success of their students.
Published research of a study of teachers in three states will be presented on “Enough!” a one-hour e-learning course designed specifically for faculty and staff of public and private schools. The course’s impact on learner knowledge about child sexual abuse, ability to recognize boundary violating behaviors early, and confidence to report suspected or disclosed cases will be shared. Schools interested in learning more about this evidence-informed prevention tool will have a chance to preview the course at no cost.
Melinda Gushwa, PhD., ~ Associate Professor and Director of MSW Program, Simmons College School of Social Work
3:30 PM - A Singing Send-Off by Framingham High School Youth
“We All See the Stars”
“Stop the Hurt Before It Starts”
Thaddeus Bell ~ High School Vocal Music Educator and Pianist
Donna Wresinski ~ Director of Fine and Performing Art Framingham Public Schools
4:00 PM - Adjourn