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Sexual abuse of public school students more widespread than parents think

.- A California investigator says there's an epidemic of sexual crimes against students in the state’s public schools, a problem largely overlooked by those responsible for protecting children.

In a telephone interview with California Catholic Daily, Mary Jo McGrath, a Santa Barbara lawyer who assesses cases of suspected sexual molestation in schools, noted there are now “staggering numbers” of sexual abuse cases coming to light, and estimated the incidence as on average about one perpetrator per school.

A seven-month investigation by Associated Press reporters found that, from 2001 to 2005, the teaching licenses of more than 2,500 educators nationwide were revoked for actions ranging from the bizarre to the sadistic.

The reported frequency of sexual abuse -- nearly three for every school day -- indicates an extremely serious problem, one which McGrath says is largely ignored because the public does not want to consider the broader implications if something so repulsive is so widespread.

For instance, the AP report examined the case of Rebecca A. Boicelli, a teacher in Redwood City who conceived a child with a 16-year-old former student, then went on maternity leave. She was then hired to teach in a nearby school district, where no one had told them about the teacher’s past.

As Charol Shakeshaft, a leading expert in teacher sex abuse told the AP, “It's a dynamic so common it has its own nicknames -- ‘passing the trash’ or the ‘mobile molester.’"

Who are the molesters? McGrath told California Catholic Daily that “80 to 90% are middle-class, middle-aged men who are married and have children. We think they molest mostly girls, although boys are far less likely to report abuse: a boy seduced by a female teacher gets the impression he’s ‘supposed’ to enjoy it, and a boy abused by a man is so confused and humiliated he won’t talk.”

Said McGrath, “Often, people simply don’t want to believe that a married man with children can be afflicted by this aberrant sexuality. But it’s a crime of opportunity. Where a normal man might think, ‘Oh, that’s an attractive child’ and consciously reject the notion of approaching her, an abuser will look for his chance.”

One big difference between suspected misconduct on the part of Catholic priests and that of public school teachers, says McGrath, is that investigators and prosecutors have access to extraordinarily full documentation in the case of priests: correspondence, medical and psychological counseling records, and employment history starting when the man was a seminary student. “Almost none of that,” she told California Catholic Daily, “would end up in a public school teacher’s personnel file.”

McGrath said public student abuse victims can sue the school, the school district, and the state Department of Education in much the same way the Catholic Church was sued by victims of abuse at the hands of priests. “Supreme Court rulings in the last 20 years on civil rights and sex discrimination have opened schools up to potentially huge financial punishments for abuses,” explained McGrath. “I’m now training entire school systems how to recognize the early warning signals, the ‘red flags’ of abuse.”

The original story can be found at California Catholic Daily


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