Father of disabled child says abuse more worrisome in public schools

.- The parent of a teen with Down Syndrome says children, and especially those with disabilities, are more likely to experience sexual abuse in public schools than anywhere else outside the home, including at church.

“Dan is safer serving Mass at our local parish than he'll ever be in America's public schools,” Francis X. Maier writes of his son in an article published in the May issue of Crisis Magazine. “And yet the Church has been the sole focus of attack since the clerical sex-abuse scandal came to light four years ago.”

Maier cites a 2005 Associated Press article, which reports that in some states, sexual abuse is now the main reason public school teachers lose their licenses. He also cites a 1999 investigative report by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which found that the most common reason for teacher discipline in Pennsylvania in the 1990s was sex-related offenses.

In 2005, 250 public school teacher misconduct cases had been substantiated in New York City schools. Of these, 92 involved sexual misconduct complaints, ranging from rape to public exposure.

Maier also cites Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University, who, in February 2006, told the Colorado General Assembly that 6.7 percent of all students in the United States report being sexually abused by an educator in public schools.

Of the 45 million students attending public and private schools, more than 3 million will have been the target of physical sexual exploitation by a school employee by grade 11, says Shakeshraft.

“Even on the wild chance that these data are off by half, the scope of public school sexual abuse involves many hundreds of thousands of students and eclipses anything in the Catholic clergy,” says Maier.

“The evidence also suggests that from 1 percent to 5 percent of the teaching profession and up to 25 percent of all public school districts have problems of sexual abuse,” he adds. Furthermore, abusive teachers are moved to at least two to three school districts before they are stopped.

“But don't expect to read about it in your local newspaper,” said Maier, since most incidents of public school educator sexual misconduct with children are not entered into criminal justice information systems. Abusers, says Shakeshraft, “are generally subject only to informal personnel actions within the relative privacy of the [public school] administration."

In a study of 225 cases of educator sexual abuse in a major metropolitan area only 1 percent of offending teachers lost their teaching credentials, Shakeshraft points out.

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