Expert gives advice on detecting, handling alleged school abuse

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY)  – Recently, educators in Brunswick, New Hanover and nearby Duplin Counties have been charged with crimes against children.

The case in Wilmington caused many parents and the school to call a meeting to discuss their concerns.  It seems it’s not uncommon to hear about teachers accused of inappropriate actions with kids including students.

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What are the ways to prevent this? Be it signs or a sequencing of events? We took those questions to a local expert whose non-profit actively works with abuse or trauma victims.

From their point of view, policies, procedures, and parenting all play a role in preventing a child from becoming a victim.

Isaac Bear Early College High School teacher Michael Kelly sits behind bars. He’s facing 32 charges of sexual misconduct, some of the victims students. A former preschool teacher, Andrew Hodge, is also charged with four similar offenses in Brunswick County. The big question how do parents keep their kids safe?

“If they don’t have a world view for what is normal, then they are going to participate as if this is normal,” said Amy Feath, the executive director of The Carousel Center.

Feath oversees the counseling of trauma victims on many levels including sexual abuse at the center. The non-profit also assists local school districts counseling students. Feath says parents need to debunk the myths, predators are not always strangers, she says they can be people who kids or parents trust.

“We do have to create an open dialogue with our kids so that they see us as somebody they can come to.”

She adds that if a child or teen’s behavior becomes the opposite of how they routinely act, that could be a sign something has or is affecting them.

“It is important for them to be able to ask that question,” Feath said. “Now I will say that is harder if you haven’t already laid the groundwork with the child to be able to talk with you about really important topics.”

Topics like the behavior an adult may be showing to a student or child, touching that is and is not safe, attention that is and is not okay, not just in person but online as well.

“Just listen, if someone needs to talk, then you just listen.”

WWAY reached out to area school districts to see what they have in place to address abuse.New Hanover and Brunswick County tell us their districts have counselors and social workers dedicated to specific schools. A majority of the districts have clear policies to report abuse and require school employees to do so.

Feath says those seeking information on how to get the conversation started with their children or with kids about protecting themselves from abuse should seek advice from places like social services, the rape crisis center at Coastal Horizons, and The Carousel Center.