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July 28, 2022 12 mins

While researching the series, the Betrayal team learned about the prevalence of Educator Sexual Misconduct. Dr. Charol Shakeshaft, an expert and researcher, explains why problems persist and what schools can do about it.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:24):
I'm under a gunning and this is betrayal. Bonus Episode
two Educator sexual Misconduct. We've addressed betrayal in various ways
during the series, and we've heard from many of you
that personally identified with Rachel, the victim that spends our

(00:45):
Hearin was convicted of sexually assaulting at Kel High School.
During our production, we've learned more about how pervasive educator
sexual misconduct is. Sexual misconduct is a range of verbal,
visual and a tory and physical behaviors that are sexualized
in her actions with students in schools, anything from language

(01:10):
to students that is sexualized, asking them what they like
to do for sex, what kind of sex do they like?
Two things that are visual, for instance, masturbating in front
of students, never touching them, but masturbating in front of them,
or disrobing in front of them, or sending them pictures
of penises or breasts or vaginas. And then physical assault

(01:33):
issues like forced sex or in terms of miners, it
may not be for six they're miners. They may be confused.
They're often told the person loves them and cares for them,
and they're going to get married and things are going
to be Okay, that's doctor Cheryl Shakeshaft. She's a professor
of educational leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author

(01:56):
of a congressionally mandated report an educator see Misconduct. She's
been studying school employee sexual misconduct for more than twenty
five years. Our team reached out to her to learn
more about the problem. Doctor Shakeshaft believes schools have not
done nearly enough to prevent educat or sexual misconduct, and
that the onus is often on the children to report.

(02:19):
We have received so many emails with similar stories to Rachel's,
we thought it was important to raise awareness to help students,
parents and schools be aware to avoid predators like Spencer.
We have expected the children to be the people who
police the school and prevent things from happening, so we
give them training about good touch, bad touch, nothing wrong

(02:41):
with that. They should know those things absolutely, but adults
also need to know exactly what they should do when
they see things, when things are going on, when their
bystanders and stuff happens in front of them. They need
training to be able to understand what that means, not
just say, oh, he's just a friendly teacher. He hugs

(03:03):
all the kids, or she just really likes her students,
and yes, she goes out of her way for them.
You know, they need to understand what the boundaries are,
that nobody gets to cross those boundaries, and that if
you see boundary crossing, you're reported. And then the people
who gets reported to need to understand that if there's

(03:24):
a report, you need to actually do something. You need
to in most cases call the police and have an investigation.
And sometimes even well meaning teachers don't understand the dynamics
of teachers who engage in sexual misconduct. We heard from
a teacher who joined the staff at Kel High School
after Spencer Hearn was arrested, and one of his comments

(03:47):
really stood out. He wrote, many teachers at Kel would
tell me it didn't really believe the charges, or that
every story has two sides, and it really made me
feel uncomfortable because of the deplorable charges. I found it
odd that so many employees were complacent are passive about
the story. In schools, they often allowed teachers to break rules,

(04:12):
taking students in their cars, being alone with students behind
closed and locked doors in their rooms. Teachers see things
of their colleagues, and they don't respond. I asked teachers,
did you see anything, and they say, yes, I did.
It was you know, really irregular and not allowed behavior.
And then I say that the teacher will did you

(04:32):
report it? And the teacher will say, well know, And
then I ask why and the teacher says, well, you know,
if I was wrong, I might get a colleague in trouble,
and I didn't want to do that, and it's kind
of awkward, you know, we're friendly, and I I just
didn't report. I've never heard a teacher say yes, I reported,
and I reported because even if I'm wrong, I wanted

(04:55):
to make sure that if something was happening, somebody was
looking into us. So the issue is that in schools
we don't do anything, and by not doing anything, by
not using prevention methods, we enable those people who either
intend to abuse or come around to abusing, because they

(05:16):
start crossing boundary after boundary after boundary, and pretty soon
there they are. We enable them. It's like having roads
with no stop signs. Perhaps futures don't know what they
should say. We need to practice the language of reporting,
just get people familiar with it instead of saying, oh,

(05:36):
I don't think this is really real. I mean, I'm
probably making something out of nothing. I mean, it's just well,
you know, I really hate to bring this up, saying
Harold has this classroom across the hall from me, and
I see him there regularly alone with individual students. It
concerns me. Or I saw Janine having dinner with one

(05:57):
of her students and they were sitting really close together.
I'm concerned. We need to teach people to just give
information and then somebody to take the next step and investigate.
We ask doctor Shatschaft, how can we change that thinking
and culture in schools. Every school should have training, training

(06:17):
about patterns and what happens and what you're supposed to
do as an adult. Every school should have a set
of behaviors so that people understand what's acceptable and what's
not acceptable between adults and students. Many kids just think
that it's okay. They say, if this weren't okay, somebody
would have stopped it. Everybody sees how he acts or

(06:38):
how she acts, so kids don't really understand, and they
think of it as dating. They don't understand the issues.
So the kids see it, the kids talk about it,
they see it. They know stuff's going on, but they
don't report it because they don't code it as something
that is supposed to be reported because no one's ever
taught them. Doctor Shakeshaft explains that there is training for

(07:07):
sexual harassment, but schools could do more. When you ask
most schools and if they have training, they say, yes,
we have training. And then when you ask to see
the training, what you see is either training about sexual
harassment peer to peer, So the adults get training about
not harassing one of their colleagues, kids get training about

(07:27):
not harassing one of their peers, but neither get training
about the adult sexually harassing the student. Or they get
trained on mandated reporting. But mandated reporting training is about
reporting things that happen outside the school, not inside the school.
What else could schools do. We need people who walk

(07:48):
through the cafeteria at lunchtime and look at what adults
and students are doing. People who when they walk down
the halls are looking at adult and student interaction. When
they go by a classroom door, looking in and seeing
what's going on when it's before school and after school
and the classroom's empty, checking the classroom, seeing what's happened.
We need people who are on the move and looking

(08:11):
for the right things. It isn't that people don't walk
down the halls, but they aren't looking at adult to
student interactions. They're looking for some student who's misbehavior. They're
not looking for these things. So we need supervisory behavior.
When you hear a rumor, even if it's abstract, we
need people who will investigate. And on the occasions someone

(08:33):
does report it, the investigation often doesn't go far enough.
They tend to call the teacher in and say are
you having sex with Anne Marie? And the teacher says no,
and the person says, okay, thank you, I didn't think so.
And then the teacher steps out and texts and Marie
and says, erase everything off your phone, and if you

(08:55):
get called in, tell them nothing's going on, and that's
the end of it. They don't follow up in super vision.
They don't follow up and tried to see what's happening.
They don't do an investigation, they don't ask the friends,
they don't do anything. One of our listeners shared a
story that still upsets her years later. She tried to
do the right thing. She wrote, I was a sophomore

(09:15):
in high school and one of my teachers used to
hit on me and tell me very inappropriate things, for instance,
how he would rather have me beside him in his
bed instead of his wife. Nothing physical ever happened. It
was all verbal and the mental toll it had on me,
it was so much more than my teenage mind could take.

(09:36):
He would follow me in the hallways. I couldn't take
it anymore and broke down in tears to my mother
and told her everything. We went to the school and
told the principle everything. He seemed skeptical. I was brought
in the next day for questioning. Needless to say, nothing
happened and he was slapped with a week off. When

(09:56):
he came back, it was worse because now he demanded
to know why I said anything. So what should happen?
Call the police and have an investigation. That's what you
need to do. And what else does doctor shakeshaf feel
is non negotiable. No sharing phone numbers, no sharing social media,

(10:18):
no having friends on Facebook, no TikTok, no Instagram, no nothing.
School districts are supposed to have email that are monitored.
They can have texting systems that are monitored, so that
you're using the monitored texting systems for the school. There
are lots of ways to do electronic communication with students

(10:38):
when you need to, that are monitored by schools and
are therefore safe. Now that doesn't mean somebody might not
also use their telephone, but we should at least start
with the rule that no, you can't use your personal
telephone number. You can't use your personal telephone number for texting,
or your personal email or your personal social media. School

(11:02):
districts have Facebook social media pages, they have other things
where if you want to make an announcement to your students,
you want to do whatever, you can do it there.
And we can't just say this one time at the
beginning of the school year. It needs to be messaged
over and over again. It is a simple rule and
it should be followed, and it should be followed with
bink stigns up all over the place and little pop

(11:25):
ups that come up and other things to remind people.
Don't give out your telephone number to an adult in
the school, don't give out your telephone number to a
student in school. Don't text. We need to change the patterns.
Doctor Shakeshaft understands how much we put on our teachers.
I was a teacher and I thought, this job's the

(11:45):
hardest job I've ever had. It was wonderful, but it's
hard work. And so I don't want to slam the
teachers for that. Yeah, they're busy, but it is a
school culture problem. If you have a school culture that's
the culture of students safe first. And these are the
things we do, and we talk about it and we
share our strategies and we bring it up and we

(12:06):
don't bury it, and we don't just say, hey, we've
got a handbook and policies, read them and then tell
people that's training, which it's not. You know, we can
change a culture where we say we don't cross kids boundaries.
That's behavior that's not acceptable. Here, the Betrayal Team thanks
doctor Shakeshaft for her insight into educator sexual misconduct. There

(12:30):
are new developments in Jennifer's story and we'll share them
with you in an additional bonus episode soon
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