( Editors Note : In the wake of the recent arrest of a former Thomson teacher/band director on child pornography and enticement charges, The McDuffie Mirror is summarizing two previously-published stories that might be of interest to concerned parents.)
SCHOOL BOARD PASSES NEW POLICY
At their August, 2009, regular meeting, members of the McDuffie County Board of Education adopted a Code of Ethics for Educators as declared by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission to govern staff and student interactions in the performance of job duties.
Superintendent of McDuffie County Schools Jim LeBrun presented the policy after Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents sized computer equipment from a teacher's house and the teacher resigned from his position at Thomson Middle and Thomson-McDuffie Junior High schools.
The policy establishes a process for students to follow in reporting instances of alleged inappropriate behavior by a school employee. It also defines and describes "sexual abuse" and "sexual misconduct," which includes, but is not limited to, comments, jokes, gestures, messages, notes, rumors, conversations and name-calling.
Mr. LeBrun said some employees might not realize they are engaging in a form of sexual misconduct, and the policy will help to clarify the details.
PARENTS, STUDENTS GET TIPS ON INTERNET SAFETY
Georgia Emergency Management Agency School Safety representative John Cleveland spent an evening at Thomson Middle School three years ago to educate parents and their children on internet-related dangers, including exposure to pornography, sexual solicitation, harassment and bullying.
Regarding online predators, Mr. Cleveland said pedophiles seduce their prey in stages, first by investing large amounts of time giving the child attention. The predator listens to the child, sympathizes with complaints about family, friends or school, and responds in ways that reinforce feelings of alienation.
As time progresses, the predator will become more affectionate, working towards lowering the child's natural inhibitions. If the child has successfully been drawn into a symbiotic relationship, the predator attempts to arrange a meeting.
If the child expresses feelings that what they are doing is wrong, the pedophile can often overrule this feeling with massive amounts of affection, Mr. Cleveland said, adding that "the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is all over this, if it gives y'all any consolation."
Mr. Cleveland said children and pre-teens are ideal victims of sexual predators because they are naturally curious about sex and they lack emotional maturity, which makes them susceptible to manipulation. Also, they have a strong desire for attention, validation and affection.
Older children and teens become victims because they have a need to defy their parents, he said. Even if they do not know the person they are forming a relationship with, Mr. Cleveland said many teens understand their predator is older and is interested in sex.
He said pedophiles know how to manipulate teens, and teens agree to meet with them.
Mr. Cleveland gave common signs a child is involved in an unhealthy online relationship, which include: they immediately click the mouse to change or minimize the screen when a parent walks by; they spend a lot of time online, especially late at night; they become withdrawn from family; they receive phone calls from unfamiliar people; and they become overly upset if their internet access is denied or restricted, even for a short period of time.
Mr. Cleveland suggests parents establish rules for the internet, keep the computer in a common room, discuss their child's online activities with them and keep the lines of communication open to their child at all times.
Parents should prepare themselves beforehand of how they will react if they find out their child has been in contact with an inappropriate person online.
If a parent suspects their child is being groomed by a pedophile, contact local law enforcement officials or contact the crime unit at firstname.lastname@example.org for help.