Teachers Have an Important Role in Recognizing Abuse

Female teacher and student having a serious conversation

From the day students arrive in kindergarten, they have moved into an education system that leads them to spend more time with teachers and school administrators than just about anyone else – even their parents.

As a result, school and classroom leaders are in a better position than most to recognize student needs that might otherwise go overlooked, including if the student has experienced sexual harassment, misconduct, or abuse. In fact, a 2018 report from the Department of Health and Human Services found that 21% of all child abuse or neglect referrals came from education personnel. Notably, these numbers precede the pandemic, when a significant number of abuse cases likely went unreported amid virtual education.

As schools return to in-person format, there’s an opportunity to strengthen the ability of educators to recognize signs of abuse, which are not always obvious. Fictional depictions of survivors have conditioned us to expect physical clues that a student may be in harm’s way, but this is not always the case.

According to education expert Beth Lewis, other than physical evidence of harm, some leading signs of potential neglect or abuse include sleeping at school, a sudden change in behavior, or a lack of preparedness.

The situation for adult students may be different, but there’s currently limited research and perspective on the role of college faculty members in preventing harassment, misconduct, or abuse on campuses. What’s clear, however, is that college students who survive trauma frequently suffer academically.

If properly trained, faculty who spot a sudden decline in a student’s academic performance may be able to reach out to the student not only to discuss their grades, but also gather a sense of whether the student needs support in life outside the classroom. 

Students don’t check their personal lives at the door of a classroom. Ensuring that educators and administrators have the training and resources necessary to support students in crisis will help reduce abuse and ensure that all students have an opportunity to succeed academically.

RALIANCE provides consulting, assessment, and employee development services to help build more equitable workplace cultures and create environments free from sexual harassment, misconduct and abuse. We stand ready to support your organization’s goals – contact us today at [email protected] to get started.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter