Monday, March 3, 2008

When a Juvenile is a Sex Offender

You may be asking yourself what this topic is doing on a Catholic blog--and that is a very good question. As a volunteer in our Catholic school, my husband and I had to take the course Protecting God's Children conducted by VIRTUS. Every single adult within our diocese who has any contact with children in the Catholic Church or Church operated organizations and schools must complete the training. This is a good thing, a very good thing. In a previous job, I was a state mandated reporter and had to take the state provided training. In that one we were basically instructed on signs to look for and how to report abuse. The VIRTUS program is very different; we are to know how to prevent it from happening in the first place. As part of the program, we must complete monthly online training bulletins and answer questions which follow.

I just received the training for this month and the topic is Managing the Child Sex Offender who is a Student. It raises some interesting things that I have not considered previously. I once reported a child for having abused his little brother in ways unimaginable while I worked for the Head Start program. I felt horrible doing so, but knew I must nonetheless. I knew that this abuser was just a young child himself and that something had most likely been done to him for him to even know the vocabulary and actions he carried out. Most juvenile offenders of sex crimes never serve any time in a correctional institution and are instead directed to intensive counseling. How do we protect the child who abuses as well as keeping them from abusing again? There may be no good answers, but some ideas shared in the bulletin will hopefully be helpful to someone who reads this.

The key for a school to manage the juvenile child sex offender is structure. This means that certain key people must be notified of the situation and be involved in monitoring all activities of the student sex offender.

In order for the “structure arrangement” to work, the school administration should also implement an approved School Safety Plan that the sex offender student must follow.

A School Safety Plan should include the following:

  • The student must be required to check in at the principal’s office at start of school and check out at the conclusion of the day.
  • The student can arrive at school only 15 minutes prior to the start of a class and must be off school property 15 minutes after attending the last class.
  • The student’s school schedule should be created in such a way to allow no type of “free period” that could give the student the opportunity to travel around the school property in an unmonitored status.
  • A member of the school staff must accompany the student during all bathroom breaks.
  • The student must have a member of the school staff in the immediate vicinity whenever changing clothes for participation in a school activity.
  • The student must never be allowed to swim or take a shower with other students.
  • The student must follow certain prescribed routes to and from all classes, the gym, and the playground.
  • If the student is required to commute on a school bus the student must sit in the first seat closest to the driver.
  • The student shall not participate in school sanctioned class trips to the museum, park, etc.
  • The student should never interact with a group of less than three students unless directly monitored.
Not a very pleasant topic to consider, I know. But, if you are ever presented with the situation as a parent you will know what issues must be addressed. We cannot leave it up to the schools to 'know what is best' and must assert ourselves when it comes to the protection of the God's children placed into our care. Child offenders? There are unfortunately more of them out there than you would care to imagine and because of their juvenile status, we may never know.

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