Ramifications of Educator Sexual Misconduct
I. Your first job, first.
For teachers, and all others, it is important to stay in your job, stay close to your
expertise. This is the area for which you are trained, this is the information/activity for
which the youngster is seeking communications with you.
A. Avoid counseling.
1. lack of training
2. emotional traps
To go into areas such as counseling, even on a superficial level, is to invite danger. For
one, teachers have a lack of training in the counseling domain. “Kiddy Psyche,” Sociology
101, and Classroom Management fall well short of providing ethical guidelines, at least the
education in the last part of the 60's did. Those of us trained for the classroom in that era
were left to our own moralistic and ethical mores. Society had prepared us through the
growing-up years and through examples how to live as mature, contributing adults.
The emotional traps in counseling that exist for the untrained are issues that beg
attention. The emotional make-up of mankind, especially the males, is strongly sexual.
Coupled with an emotional attachment, deviant or otherwise, the combination gives
challenge to an already ill-defined “red line” that exists between adults and potential
victims of sexual abuse.
B. Avoid personal/intimate topics
By avoiding personal/intimate topics the danger of straying into an emotional
attachment is considerably lessened. It is all too easy for teachers, clergy, and scout
leaders, to be the supporting listener for any troubled youth. And once the listening
begins, it is an issue of the heart; the self-discipline to terminate and to leave the troubled
youth without the obvious support is difficult. Yet if some break is not made, subsequent
sessions easily follow.
II. Role of others- counselors/teachers/family.
Adults must be quick to recognize the role of others- counselors/teachers/family. The
excuse that today’s families are not as in the “olden” days should not be used to avoid
contact. At least try. Even if the family is dysfunctional, be sure that notice is given that
help has been sought and that (your) position precludes further help.
A. Share with them all questionable concerns.
1. topics outside of curriculum
2. topics that cause (you) discomfort.
Adults in this position should share with them- counselors/teachers/family- all
questionable concerns. That would certainly include topics outside of curriculum and
topics that cause (you) discomfort. Indeed, topics that cause discomfort should raise all
kinds of red flags, and topics outside your curriculum and outside of educational (or
religious, scouting concerns, etc.) boundaries should be examined closely. Obviously it is
acceptable to help a young person balance their checkbook (etc.) but once the subject
strays to boy-girl/friends, tread carefully!
B. items/topics that are kept from family/others should be questioned
The victim may be adamant that nothing be shared with the parents. That has red flags
all over it. It is the teacher's responsibility to send students to the counselor and to talk to
the counselor in confidence of the concerns that this issue raises. Abusers are however,
“in control” and feel that they can handle whatever issues are encountered. This
egotistical attitude is part of the grooming and influential behavior; it strengthens the
need for support, and further endeares the victim to the abuser.
1. why issues were not shared with family/counselors
The question of why issues were not shared with family/counselors is another example
of red flags flying. Young people who will not share with those that are supposed to be
their best advocates are walking much too close to the edge, and that needs to be
recognized. This is an important concern, much too important to be that left in the hands
of the untrained; certainly much too important to be left in the hands of a manipulative sex
offender. Consider the vulnerability.
2. secretive dialogue-unethical at best.
Adults should by nature be uncomfortable with secretive dialogue which again is
unethical at best, especially when shared with an adolescent. Offenders use this personal
dialogue, the sharing of the victim’s inner-most secrets, and even some of their own, to
further strengthen the “bond” that is being built. As part of the grooming and
manipulative process, a great deal of dependence can be built by being part of the personal
and intimate aspects of the victim’s life. Victims will place a great deal of confidence and
trust in the abuser and will be willing to share more and more of their lives; more and more
of the issues that should be directed to qualified personnel.
C. Share nothing exclusively with adolescents
D. It is not the role of teacher/coach to be confidante
The fact that teachers should share nothing exclusively with adolescents is not an issue
that abusers recognize. In fact, they realize that it presents a door into the victim’s
confidence and is used as a means of further manipulation. It places them in the role of a
teacher/coach confidante, and used in the grooming process. This fits the MO of the
III. Addressing the “blind spot” (thank you, Dr.Wiley*)
How are offenders able to carry out this assault with the visibility that teachers have?
Again, the dynamics of behavior for teachers who are sex offenders are extremely subtle.
The teacher may have been in the school system for many years. They may be well known
as a teacher, coach, and leader in the educational community. On the surface they may be
“the last person who would ever offend” in such a manner. This “most understanding
friend” cover makes a convenient mask for deviant activities. It creates the “blind spot”
as alluded to by Dr. Wiley, a researcher of ethical practices for the educational community.
A. Monitoring daily contact
1. how often is appropriate?
2. how much is appropriate?
This blind spot may be no less than an excuse, a cover for a lack of diligence, but it bears
merit and needs to be addressed, with a word of caution which begs for repetition.
Abusers use this blind spot on the part of colleagues to hide offending activities amongst
the normal, everyday routine of teaching. They may even “accent” normal activities, such
as placing a chair next to or in the open doorway of the room when the victim is in the
room alone with the teacher. Whenever the victim is in the room alone, the teacher
maintains a high level of visibility and may have the victim visit in the room when other
students are be present. Teachers passing through the room on daily errands come to
view the victim's presence as normal. However, the blind spot fails at monitoring daily
contact because it becomes the norm for the victim to be visiting on a daily basis. The
blind spot creates a false sense of security, circumventing the issues of visits; how often is
appropriate and how much is appropriate. In the distorted thinking, the abuser wants the
victim to visit often so that the abuser can continue to build upon dependence on the
teacher and to perpetuate the deviant activities.
B. Being “nosy” (concerned) about colleagues
1. watch each other’s backs
The word of caution is that being “nosy” (concerned) about colleagues is an important
issue. Without becoming a witch hunt, colleagues need to watch each other’s backs and
weigh carefully the activities that are observed. For all intents and purposes, the abuser's
observed activities will certainly seem within acceptable boundaries.
2. step-in/interject when questions arise.
a. too much time being spent with one student
b. unaccounted time - missing meetings, events, etc.
Colleagues and supervisors and even casual friends, need to step-in/interject when
questions arise about too much time being spent with one student or when there is
unaccounted time - missing meetings, events, etc. Offenders will take advantage of the
blind spot by carrying out all of their duties and they may participate in many extra things
in and around the school community. They remain highly visible and available. Sex
offenders live two interwoven lives. But that always leaves room for compromise; it is
difficult to lead two lives without making errors. When questions arise, when there
appears to be personal turmoil, others need to be appropriately nosy and carefully assess
what they see. It would be very advisable to share the concern with others such as the
department chairperson or a counselor. The more input and the more persons involved,
the better. And of course the school busy-body...you may be starting to appreciate the
All of these factors contribute; they are all part of the MO for offenders, some more
accomplished than others. And there are many other factors that yet have to be
researched. It is critically important that adults maintain boundaries/relative “positions”
with the youth with whom they are working. If there are rules and regulations specific to
a job or position, they are there for reasons that need not be questioned. Unfortunately,
the sex offender amends rules and regulations as s/he sees fit and is in such a state of
distorted thinking that the behaviors are viewed as normal. “He who needs help the most,
sees it the least.” For this reason, behaviors must be questioned or in the least, noted
IV. Tripping over the “enabler”
A. Parent’s permissions - “blanket” permissions for discussions
The offender will often use the ploy of 'covering their posterior' by contacting the victim’
s mother on several occasions and gaining greater and greater latitude in the topics that
are “OK” to share with the victim. Here the offender will use the enabler to reinforce the
deviant activities. In gaining a parent’s permission - a “blanket” permission for discussions
- the offender enables themselves to continue abusing the victim. This blanket permission
gives “permission” to continue the activities. This obviously is an aspect of the distorted
thinking; that they somehow have obtained an “OK” from mom to continue the activities -
of which she knows nothing.
1. topics must be censored/restricted to an adult’s area/subject
2. other professionals referred
This is a very common “trap” for lack of a better descriptor. More than one educator has
confirmed that there are no guidelines, except one own's comfort level, for the topics that
are appropriate or “safe” for teachers and other adults dealing with young people. It is
human nature to be compassionate and the stories are many where teachers have taken it
upon themselves to be helpful and supportive. The fact that there are few reported cases
of abuse, underscores the validity of the teacher acting in this capacity. But even one
sexually assaulted student is one too many and the potential is always there. To avoid this
trap in the main, topics must be censored/restricted to an adult’s area/subject and when
it is realized and/or determined that boundaries are being nudged, other professionals
need to be referred. It is much too easy to listen “just once more” or to “just one more
issue” with which the adult may feel s/he can help. This is the bait for the "trap". (It is
not to be implied that any student 'traps' a teacher but that offenders build this ensnaring
scenario to emerg both the victim and themselves in the deviant cycle). At the same time,
teachers, scout leaders, coaches, etc., have to be available with a shoulder for our young
people. It is not an easy line to navigate. I’m sure you know. Maybe some of you have
been there, but you didn’t offend....
B. Teens embellish, look for support, acceptance, reinforcement
1. are very emotional
2. have little/no experience base
To compound the right decision being made, teens embellish, look for support,
acceptance, reinforcement, etc., leading to a compromise being easily made as an adult
attempts to deal with the young person, especially teens who are very emotional and very
demanding, especially in subtle ways. They have little or no experience base and they
react accordingly. The offender's influence over the victim is due in large part to the lack
of experience in dealing with adults that enable, and certainly the victim's experience is
limited in terms of being manipulated by an adult with a sexual deviance.
V. Maintain boundaries/relative “positions”
A. Avoid empowering
B. Avoid codependency
Two powerful influences that can be avoided, especially for young teens, are
empowering and codependency. Teens are especially vulnerable to feeling the power of
control over situations, certainly where the power is exerted over adults; the “puppy eyes”
syndrome and the quick tears, innocent enuff - probably. The sex offender will “give
ground” and listen to input from the victim, acting on suggestions and decisions much as if
the input came from another adult. In that way, offenders empower thier victims by
acting upon their suggestions and giving the victim credence as a peer. This bolsters their
feelings of power and strengthens the endearment to the offender. With this sort of
compromise, there is an apparent codependency between the victim and the offender.
This in turn strengthens the hold on the victim as s/he becomes more and more
comfortable with the support generated by the codependency.
Next: The Sex Offender's Mode of Operation.
* Comprehensive Character-Building Classroom, Lori Sandford Wiley, PhD., Longwood
Communiations, DeBary, FL., 1998.
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