Since I left the Department of Justice in 2012, I have tried to focus on the prevention side of child protection. I have trained law enforcement, child advocacy center personnel, and other professionals in understanding offender behavior and how to conduct child exploitation investigations and prosecutions. But the most important effort, I think, has been with schools. I have spoken to staff, students and faculty about grooming, digital literacy, offender behavior, and technology monitoring.
I went to Central America last fall to help a school investigate a claim of inappropriate behavior by a staff member toward children. These interactions with schools give me hope that prevention is possible. It is a great feeling to arm teachers, students and staff with knowledge about the dangers of child exploitation. Specifically, though, I try to impart the kind of knowledge that will prevent a child from ever being exploited. And that is the goal: prevention. So, when I see a school embroiled in a child pornography investigation, I am distressed. So many schools to get to, so little time.
In the latest, tragic, example, a coach at a school in Indiana is being investigated for child pornography. The investigators are part of the same team that brought down Subway spokesman Jared Fogle. I know this team well, they are dedicated, talented professionals whose overriding goal is to bring child offenders to justice. I have no doubt they had strong evidence before they began their investigation. Tragically, the school’s headmaster committed suicide this weekend after being interviewed in the case. I certainly won’t speculate as to why, but I can’t help but wonder if this could have been prevented had this school reached out to experts for child protection training. http://dailym.ai/1SI4t7w
A school in Minnesota took a proactive approach last fall, and asked me to conduct a full two-day training for them. I spent a full day training their students, faculty and staff, then another day with community members the school generously invited to attend. I hope I reached them all, especially the children. Knowledge is power for adults and kids when it comes to protecting against those who want to exploit children. I simply don’t understand schools that ignore the problem. It is shocking to me that schools don’t provide in-depth training on grooming and offender behavior to educators. Equally shocking is their complete lack of security policy on their technology to prevent, or at least detect, the trafficking in images of child pornography.
I realize that such training isn’t free, but what is prevention worth? What is the price to children being sexually abused? Aren’t they worth it? Shattuck St Mary article on FDH training