Superintendent John Deasy of the Los Angeles Unified School District took a courageous step this week by removing the entire staff of one of the largest elementary schools in the country in the face of evidence supporting allegations of sexual abuse of children by his staff. Of course, the fact that the most notoriously botched investigation of child sexual abuse (the McMartin pre-school case which generated a trial lasting from 1987-1990) took place in a neighboring county, could have provided some strong motivation!
The Associated Press quoted Deasy: “We intend to interview every adult, every adult who works at that school, whether they are a teacher or administrator, or whether they are an after-school playground worker or a custodian or a secretary. I mean every single solitary adult who works at Miramonte.”
Advocates for preventing child sexual abuse should be waiting anxiously to read the findings of this investigation. Scholars in the field of education have spent decades studying the concept of school climate, defined as the way it feels to be in a specific school building. School climate has been shown to impact academic outcomes, student violence and other important issues. In my book The Sex Wise Parent, I expand on that concept and focus an entire chapter on helping parents understand and pay attention to the sexual climate of their child’s schools. We can no longer ignore the potential risk to kids who attend schools staffed by educators and administrators who are not paying attention to implicit and explicit message kids get from them about sex. A report published by the US Department of Education includes the estimate that at least 5 percent of all kids have some type of sexual contact with school personnel.
Deasy is right that every single adult in that school helps set the sexual climate. For a checklist on assessing the sexual climate of your child’s school click here.