Back-to-School: How educators can report child abuse even while teaching virtually

WATCH: Back-to-School: How educators can report child abuse even while teaching virtually

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Teachers play a very vital role in child abuse cases being reported.

Most times, educators are the first to report that a child is being abused.

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“If you think about it, our children spend as many awake hours in the classroom as they do at home,” said Kris Crim with the Memphis Child Advocacy Center.

The center saw a decrease in child abuse reports during the months of March, April and May because of the pandemic.

Those were also months that schools had shutdown.

“Students were just kind of doing their school-work from home with the assistance of their parents,” Crim said.

According to the Child Advocacy Center, child abuse reports in March decreased by 16 percent and then another 12 percent in April.

Since a lot of Mid-South schools are going all virtual or doing a hybrid option, it’s hard to tell if they’ll see another decrease.

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“We certainly talk about the challenges of offering virtual learning this upcoming semester, so we don’t know what those reports are going to look like, but we certainly want teachers to be prepared,” Crim said.

Even with the virtual option, Crim said there are still a lot of signs teachers teaching virtually can look for.

“In situations where to see changes in hygiene with a child, or unexplained marks or bruises, maybe a problem with a child having a hard time sitting down comfortably,” Crim said. “Those are types of situations where we might talk about physical abuse or neglect.”

Abuse comes in different forms.

Crim said teachers also need to look for signs that a child may have been sexually abused.

“That could be a child in your class who is normally very outgoing is suddenly withdrawn or is not appearing on video sessions with the class,” he said.

Something that gives Crim hope that the center may not see another decrease in abuse reporting is the fact that a lot of school systems are doing a hybrid model of students learning in a classroom for a few days and then rest is online.

That guarantees face-to-face contact with a student and can make it easier for a teacher to spot potential abuse.

The Memphis Child Advocacy Center has multiple resources available to help educators learn how to spot child abuse.

They offer a Stewards of Children learning course to teach educators and parents how to spot abuse.

More information can be found here. The center also has also added a Kids and COVID-19 section to their website.