Charlie Melvin is not sure how to report inappropriate behavior at school involving her children.
“I haven’t been told of where to do that as a parent,” said Melvin, who has two children in elementary school in the Clark County School District. “I would assume I would just go talk to the principal first.”
Melvin is not alone.
Last week, the Review-Journal launched an informal online survey for parents and teachers following our Broken Trust series on sexual misconduct between staff and students. Of 231 parents who responded, 27 percent said they did not know where and how to report inappropriate behavior between a school staff member and their child.
The series highlighted several factors that contribute to the sexual misconduct problem — including inadequate training and policies, background checks that can’t catch everything, and the collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union.
The survey, while not scientific, indicates that there is often no consensus on the best way to address the issues.
Parents, for example, were nearly split on whether texting and social media among staff and students is appropriate — 47 percent said texting is fine under certain circumstances, and 40 percent said the same for social media interaction.
Melvin, who is concerned about social media use generally, does not allow her children on it. She compares it to the cellphones that were emerging as she graduated high school.
“To see all the advancements since then as I’ve grown up and have had my kids grow up, it’s crazy to see already what huge problems that it’s caused,” she said.
Case in point: the latest arrest of a CCSD staff member this week — the 12th since July — involved a substitute teacher accused of using Snapchat to proposition a student.
The survey questions aimed at teachers, which drew 164 responses, also offer some interesting insights.
For the most part, educators said they know how to report sexual misconduct. Ninety-two percent said they know how to report inappropriate behavior they see, and 91 percent said they are not afraid to report it.
Eighty-seven percent also said they would be willing to undergo more thorough background checks.
Teachers were more divided on the need for more or better training on sexual misconduct, with 65 percent saying they would be willing to undergo more education on the subject.
Jason Garner, a teacher at Green Valley High School, is among those who say they would, but added that he thought it would be a waste of time and money.
“It’s ridiculous to suggest that hours of training will help with reporting or behavior,” he said in an email.
Most people from central office down to classroom teachers, he said, already are trying to do what’s right for children.
“Unfortunately, because the district is so large and we are so desperate for teachers, they are taking people who should not be in the classroom and keeping teachers who are not doing the best thing for children,” Garner said.
Melvin, the parent, said she worked as a substitute teacher in the district about a decade ago and saw the desperate need to fill positions. She thinks the district should improve its training and interviewing process.
“If they don’t start fixing things and start putting more importance on these issues, then … we’re just going to keep doing this poorly,” she said. “And the kids are the ones that will suffer.”
Here’s how parents and teachers responded to a few of the questions in the Review-Journal’s online survey.
Parents: Has your child ever reported feeling uncomfortable with a staff member at school? 16% Yes
Parents: Do you feel that the district, overall, adequately protects students from sexual predators? 49% Yes
Teachers: Have you ever been falsely accused of inappropriate behavior with a student? 4% Yes
Teachers: Have you ever seen a colleague behave inappropriately with a student? 22% Yes
Source: RJ online survey of 231 parents and 164 teachers (results collected from May 26-June 2)
Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter. On Education appears every other Saturday.