Flurry of Child Abuse Issues in Horry County Schools

by on January 20th, 2011
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After a flurry of child abuse related charges and a public outcry to do something about it, I was compelled to think about what this all means and what the long term implications could be. What falls under school responsibility and when does it go from foolish choices to criminal intent? At what point are we asking teachers to do so much they are unable, or afraid to teach?

In just the past few weeks a some of the incidents reported were

North Myrtle Beach teachers aide accused of abusing a specials needs child North Myrtle Beach school aide charged with assault and battery on a student Myrtle Beach guidance counselor and teacher charged and arrested for failing to report alleged child sexual abuse of a 9 year old Loris Elementary calls police after noticing visible signs of abuse on an 11 year old student

This is just a small sampling of incidents that have occurred in Horry County, but it brings up visions of chronic abuse and incompetence. That would be an unfair rush to judgment, but an understandable conclusion. Rather than rush to judgment, it would be far more beneficial to look at this in a constructive manner and determine what was just a sensationalized story and which ones were clear criminal acts.

Item one, severely autistic child abused by teachers aide
In this case, two aides filed written statements saying that they witnessed another aide hitting, shoving, and rough treatment of a severely autistic female student. The aide was placed on administrative leave with no further action. The official statement from Teal Britton, Spokesperson at Horry County Schools was, at this time, there is not enough probable cause established (source), and the case was closed according to an article in The Sun News .

My take:
Two signed statements sounds like more than enough to take action, in my opinion. I can’t speak for legal action, that is up to the proper authorities to determine if there is enough for criminal charges, but there is little doubt in my mind that there is more than enough evidence in this case for the school district to terminate this employee. Consider story number two, and this seems even more ludicrous.

Item two, school aide charged with assault
This is a second case involving an aide in the North Myrtle Beach district. In this case the aide was called in to assist the school nurse when a child who smelled like urine refused to change cloths. While trying to remove the child’s shirt, the child struggled and received scratches. More details here .

My take:
There must be more to this! In the first case two signed statements allege that an aide was hitting and intentionally inflicting harm on a severely autistic student, no charges filed. In this case a child receives what sounds like inadvertent scratches when an aide made an ill-advised decision, however did not appear to have malicious intent. The parent pressing assault charges is reacting to a natural instinct to protect the child, but is it the correct thing to do or should this parent be speaking to her child about using the facilities and following instructions?

In this case, rather than calling an aide, the parent should have been called right away. All to often parents today will immediately come to the defense of their child against the schools, right or wrong. Schools should be very careful not to put themselves into questionable situations. Should this man have been hauled off to jail? No, not even close, especially if another aide can beat an autistic child and the only punishment he receives is an extended paid vacation!

Item three, Myrtle Beach teacher and counselor charged after 9 year old reports sexual abuse
This one, at first glance, seems to be an open and shut case…. right? In this incident a 9 year old girl informed school officials, specifically a teacher and counselor, along with her mother that she had been sexually assaulted by her mothers boyfriend. The teacher and counselor apparently attempted to work with the mother after the mother came to them saying she feared the family would be deported because they were in the country illegally. More details here .

My take:
This was a difficult situation for the school officials because the child and mother were in this country illegally. Their fear was that reporting the incident would lead to the deportation, and further punishment, of a victim who had already suffered enough. Their human reaction was to protect the child while trying to remove her from further danger. Unfortunately, that clearly violates law and proper reporting guidelines. District regulations dictate that the teacher or school employee suspecting abuse must report it to the police or other authorities. In this case this child came to them and stated that she was being sexually abused, and by law they are required to report it. The ill-advised actions by these school officials could have potentially put the child in more danger. Should they go to jail? Probably not, but there should be a formal reprimand.

Item four, Loris Elementary reports visible signs of abuse
In this case, the school handled the situation exactly by the book. An 11 year old boy arrives at school with visible signs of abuse, they immediately notified authorities. More details here .

My take:
Good job by Loris Elementary officials!

What does all this mean?
According to current laws, teachers are legally responsible for ensuring that proper authorities are notified, even if they have gone to a counselor and turned the case over to them. This seems a bit backwards to me, once a teacher has taken it to a trained professional it should not be their legal responsibility to continue to follow up on it. We put so much burden on teachers as it is, you would think that since most schools have someone who is actually trained to handle these problems that responsibility would be held by the counselors… you know, the ones who went to school for this type of thing. We need only look to ridiculous policies and laws like this to see why our schools are struggling. This is no different than saying that if you witness a hit and run accident you are legally responsible to not only notify the police, but you are also required to follow up with them and make sure the suspect has been arrested. Education can’t be improved if we continue to place more and more burden upon teachers who’s primary job should be to educate, not be child services, police, parent, and psychiatrist.

When it comes to protecting our children, the Horry County school district clearly has some work to do. In one instance they do almost nothing to an aide that physically abused a defenseless child, in another they overreact to a situation that clearly was not intentional. In both cases they got it completely wrong, and likely we will see the aide who has already abused at least on child back in the school system to do it again. Policies and laws are only as effective as their implementation.

What is your view? Should teachers be held legally responsible for reporting incidents? Should school district leaders be held legally responsible to take action against employees that present a danger to our children? Post your comments below!

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