A large and critical part of my role as a teacher is to look out for my students. The teacher who cares about these kids only as students and not as human beings is, in my opinion, not a good teacher. There are laws that state that we must report any suspected abuse, neglect, etc., but we should not do this simply because it is our legal responsibility. Rather, we must do whatever we can to protect these kids because it is our moral responsibility.
I have been thinking about this issue in the wake of the Penn State scandal that is currently all over the news. This case is so devastating not only because children suffered abuse, but also because nobody protected them. Students at PSU are rioting, outraged that their beloved coach was sacked, but the school made the right decision. Yes, Paterno told his superiors about the abuse. However, when it comes to such serious matters, especially in the case of children who have even less knowledge of how to help themselves, one cannot simply say, "I told someone, so my duty is done," and then wash their hands of the whole situation. Why didn't he follow up? Why didn't he question why the authorities were not notified, and make sure Sandusky was not allowed on school premises? His moral responsibility was not fulfilled. He put football before the well-being of children, and as an educator and a human being, that infuriates and upsets me. I won't even go into the cases of his superiors, Curley and Schultz, except to say I hope they both are convicted of all charges of failing to report child abuse, and that they are forced to spend a long time rethinking their decisions while they sit in a small cell.
I discussed this story with my advisory class today. We read the article together and discussed it a bit. One girl asked why the boys didn't just tell someone, and I explained to her why victims often do not report abuse. Another girl shared a story about a case of abuse in her family. Several expressed their disgust with the whole situation. I took this opportunity to tell them that if they are being abused, or if they know or suspect that someone else is being abused, that it is of the utmost importance that they tell someone. And if that person doesn't listen or do something, then they need to tell someone else until somebody takes action. Nobody should have to suffer and feel helpless. I reminded them that even though they often feel as though their teachers just torture them, we truly have their best interests at heart and want them all to be happy, healthy, and safe. That has to remain our priority. If only it had been the priority of those in charge at Penn State.