Sensitive matter calls for cool heads
Understandably, parents at one of the city’s most prominent primary schools were shocked to discover a support staff member (assistant teacher) had reportedly behaved in a sexually inappropriate manner towards a number of young boys.
The matter is now in the most capable hands of the crack Empangeni SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit and will follow the due course of criminal justice system investigation and possible trial.
Without necessary reference to this particular incident, there are a number of issues pertaining to such anti-social behaviour.
One is that there seems to be of late a growing number of such incidents being reported.
While this might indicate an increased prevalence in modern society of such dysfunctional behaviour, it could also be that people – especially the young – are feeling much more at ease about coming forward to report such activities.
It should come as no surprise that sexual deviants who tend towards paedophilia should from time to time surface at schools, especially those where there are opportunities for them to become hostel masters and have greater access to their victims.
With more time and privacy to win the trust of the young innocents – and often to scare them into not reporting their misdeeds to adults, or to shame them into feeling guilty – they exploit their vulnerability.
It has been known for some offenders to move from place to place and for their employees to simply ‘get rid of the problem’ by firing them without notifying authorities.
They then move on to other schools, churches or youth groups.
Bearing in mind the possible long-term impacts of such an ordeal on an impressionable young person, awareness that such activities are taking place should lead to prompt, decisive and sensitive reaction measures.
These are not simply issues restricted to the department, schools and parents; there are legal, spiritual, counselling and criminal implications, among others.
It is unlikely a person exhibiting deviant conduct at one location will behave differently at other places, so there is a lot of background checking-up to be done.
One trusts the Department of Education has a manual or at least has issued guidelines on the correct steps schools should take on discovery of such conduct.
If such procedures are not in place, they ought to be, for the department and the school now ‘owns’ the problem, by default.
After all is said and done, the well-being of pupils is paramount, and comes before protecting the name of the institution or punishing (or rehabilitating) the offender.