During the Hartford Board of Education Meeting on Tuesday February 21 many members of the public spoke about the scathing report released by the Office of Child Advocacy. This report revealed that the Hartford public school system seemed to be under reporting sexual abuse within the school system, a failure to properly discipline those guilty of the abuse, failure to comply with legal obligations, I.e. the best programming for prevention and reporting, specific targeting of children especially vulnerable to the abuse (children with disabilities). There were several other concerns brought up in the report, however the physical abuse of the children was the main focus of this meeting. to read more about the report and the acting Superintendents action plan please look at the documents attached to this post.
In this meeting many member of the communities addressed their shame in what has been going on in the school system and demanded that this issue be addressed. Later on during the meeting the acting Superintendent spoke about her first draft of an action plan in response to the report. In this action plan the superintendent plans to better vet the educators and administrators in our schooling systems. She has also proposed partnerships with various child advocacy groups to better understand what is going on and how to prevent the abuse or intervene properly if it occurs. The Acting Superintendent has also proposed that their be and outside party willing to review all schools within the system. Again to read the action plan in more depth please look to the attached documents.
Once the public comments were finished the board members themselves expressed their reactions to this report and posed questions to the acting superintendent about what to do next. She also received commentary on needing to review and restructure Hartford’s entire educational system. Another comment to the acting superintendent made by board member Robert Cotto addressed the lack of uniformity in Hartford schooling system and how that has resulted in a lack of monitoring in the schooling system. The acting superintendent and the members of the board made it a point to let the public know that the accepted the report and were going to do everything in their power to fix the problem brought to light by the OCA (office of child advocacy).
What I find very interesting about this action plan is the emphasis on training, education of teachers and administrators and outside monitoring, especially in regards to the sexual abuse. while I admire the plan and her initiative to increase vigilance and education surrounding in school and out of school abuse. I believe that their main focus of policy should focus on prevention. The safety and security of children if first and for most. I believe that this means looking to place an importance on the education and training of social workers and counselors as well as an in depth vetting for employee of Hartford schools. Finally echoing the opinions of many Hartford residents including the families. Educating the children and their families on the subject, what resources are available to them and what classifies as an inappropriate relationship.