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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Protect the Child » Protect the Child

Protect the Child

Tim - March 5, 2007

There are fewer crimes that I can think of than those that harm or defile our children. A neighboring ward is now going through a crisis as a young boy (age 3) has accused an adult male member of sexually abusing him inside the church building. I don’t know the specifics so I will not dwell on this case.

In my ward this past Sunday, by instruction of the Stake Presidency, every adult member gathered together during the 3rd hour of the block to discuss the difficult subject of child abuse. After a few introductory remarks by the bishop, we watched a video called “Protect the Child” in which instructions are given regarding what signs to look for and what action should be taken if one suspects a child is being abused.

After a few more remarks by the bishop, he asked us what we thought we were doing well as a ward to protect our children. Few comments were made that were anything but typical, common-sense answers.

We then discussed what we as a ward could do to improve in this area. There were many suggestions made in this regard. They ranged from not letting young women ride along with Young Men’s leaders to having two primary teachers in each classroom to not letting kids leave Primary until their parents came and got them to Scout Leaders not sleeping in the same tent as the scouts (which I believe is Church-wide policy). There was a little bit of irony as while we were having this meeting, our kids were under the watchful eye of the Young Men and Young Women.

For some reason there seemed to be a great absence of the Spirit during this meeting as it felt something like a witch hunt. This all seemed like it was too much, as though we were surrendering our innocence. Not to get political, but it seemed like our mini version of the Patriot Act–what is too much, and when is enough enough?

I know this is a difficult subject to talk about. I want to say that I am the father of three small boys and if anything happened to them, I’m not sure what I’d do. But I’m not sure if what we’re doing is the right thing.


  1. A tendency in these things is to lump everyone younger than 23 under the protection-needing “children” heading, and act as though nine-year-olds need the same care that three-year-olds do, and nineteen-year-olds need to be protected like thirteen-year-olds. It’s a pretty infantalizing climate compared with my own childhood when a kid was expected and allowed to walk or ride his own bike a mile to go to den meeting or the swimming pool.

    The same thing happens in other settings. At airports, we yield civil rights against indiscriminate searches, supposedly because there is a special risk: an airplane at 30,000 feet is vulnerable to crippling damage from a small source that would kill all aboard. Many, though, really like the feeling of security more than liberty and wish that we all had to pass through a scanner and prove our identity before boarding a bus or stepping out of our house.

    Comment by John Mansfield — March 5, 2007 @ 8:47 am

  2. The Cub Scout program has a good policy for all adult leaders and a reasonably rigorous training program. It is set up online and all registering adult leaders must go through the course. Taking a look at something like this as a starting point might be a good idea. There is a lot of wisdom in making sure there are always two adults present no matter what. Keeps the kids and adults safe. But, would make staffing the Primary program much more problematic.

    Comment by Kurt — March 5, 2007 @ 8:52 am

  3. Many, though, really like the feeling of security more than liberty and wish that we all had to pass through a scanner and prove our identity before boarding a bus or stepping out of our house.

    I thought about this one and I’m not so sure. Say I’m moving to a new city and “shopping” for schools for my kids–if my choices were between one school with a metal detector and one without, something tells me I’m going with the school that doesn’t “need” the metal detectors. The perception is that the school with the metal detectors is more dangerous. Am I wrong?

    Comment by Tim — March 5, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  4. Making sure each Primary class has two adults in it at the same time seems like one of those things that sounds good in theory but in practice is difficult. The difficulty lies not only in getting twice as many people into Primary as before but also I think there’d be some confusion for the kids– are we talking two teachers (ooh, switching off weeks of teaching does sound good) or a teacher and a “supervisor?” I forsee many times when the kids try the old “divide and conquer” trick. Not insurmountable, but I have enough headaches with my bunch, thanks.

    Perhaps a solution would be to make sure each classroom either has big (interior) windows or windows in the door so whatever is happening inside is clearly visible?

    Comment by Proud Daughter of Eve — March 5, 2007 @ 10:19 am

  5. I love that idea, PDoE, but I’d modify it slightly to make the windows those one-way kind–make it so that the class can’t see out but the hallway can see in. We have one of those in our nursery door and I really love it, because I can check on my daughter without disturbing the whole nursery.

    Comment by Keryn — March 5, 2007 @ 11:19 am

  6. Our bishop said that in a lot of the churches they are replacing classroom doors with one’s with windows. I think this is a simple solution to a lot of problems.

    Comment by Tim — March 5, 2007 @ 12:18 pm

  7. I remember one building with windows in the doors. The Primary covered them over with paper, I suppose because of the distraction to the classes. Maybe what we really need is cameras in each room wired to monitors and recorders in the clerk’s office. A Ward Surveillance Specialist can be called to keep an eye on everyone.

    Comment by John Mansfield — March 5, 2007 @ 2:08 pm

  8. The idea of team teaching is appropriate in Primary and YM/YW. I think more group teaching is appropriate as well. I remember participating in a Christmas program for our primary this year (since it was on Christmas Eve) and I was amazed at how attentive and reverent all the kids were. I think spending more time in the group setting rather than the individual small classroom is appropriate and should be increased and I thiunk the kids will learn just as much.

    Regarding YM/YW – it has been my experience that parents are way too lax in keeping track of their kids. I previously served in the Stake YM/YW and I was amazed (and a little irritated) at parents who seemed to not care where there young daughters were at the time the dances closed (11:00 p.m.) As an adult leader (with specific assignment to the Stake Youth Activity nights) I would be responsible, along with YW leaders, to stay at the church until each young woman or young man found a ride home. Sometimes it was nearly midnight before their parents would show up. There is no residence in our stake more than 20 minutes away from the meeting house where the dances were held. Many parents made no plans to pick them up until they were called after the dance. I think parents need to come to grips with the fact that trusting other adults with their adolescent youth, even those they think they know in the church, is a bad idea. They need to take part in their children’s lives.

    Comment by lamonte — March 5, 2007 @ 2:08 pm

  9. It’s my understanding that it is church-wide policy that men not teach alone in Primary, YW, YM, or youth Sunday School. That’s certainly the policy we follow in our ward.

    The one-way windows thing is a good suggestion… as are the release of children to their parents/siblings only idea.

    What I want most, though, is for us not to give into the culture of fear that pervades modern America. It’s debilitating.

    Comment by Silus Grok — March 5, 2007 @ 2:43 pm

  10. I agree Silus.

    Personally I’m not sure that child abuse is any more prominent or common today than it was in the 1950s. We’re just more scared of it today.

    Comment by Seth R. — March 5, 2007 @ 2:56 pm

  11. I believe the policy, and I’m not sure it is really a written policy, is just for Primary. There’s no way most branches/wards could staff a classroom with more than one adult.

    I don’t think it necessary to have a companion when teaching anyone other than children.

    Comment by Tim — March 5, 2007 @ 2:57 pm

  12. I imagine, at a bare minimum, the Primary Secretary could make the rounds and look in on each classroom.

    Comment by Seth R. — March 5, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

  13. I am male and a current primary teacher. In our ward it is policy that men always teach in pairs in Primary, either 2 men or a husband and a wife. It is not just to protect the children, but also the men.

    I personally love team teaching. We have a large class and one of us can keep kids in line while the other teaches. And we only have to teach every second week.

    That said, I hate the fact that we have to live in a society where we have to worry about these things. Unfortunately we do, and our church is not immune from the problem.

    Comment by Jolard — March 5, 2007 @ 3:17 pm

  14. Maybe something like the air marshall program would soothe the fearful. In some classes, no teachers would know which, would be children carrying concealed semi-automatic handguns. Opportunistic gropers beware!

    Comment by John Mansfield — March 5, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

  15. Tim: not to put too fine a line on it, but if it ain’t written, it’s not a policy… just a practice. I believe this is a policy — specifically, that it’s in the new Bishop’s handbook ( released 3 or 4 months back ).

    Comment by Silus Grok — March 5, 2007 @ 4:56 pm

  16. I would like to see some satistics to actually see if child molestation is greater now than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Sure it’s much more publicized, but I wonder if it really is more prevelant.

    Any child abuse is bad and we should take REASONABLE steps to reduce or eliminate it. I’m just not sure that the panic mode we operate under now days works.

    We make staffing more difficult if not impossible and we keep people out of SS, RS, and PH, where they should be fellowshipping, learning, and strengthening their testimonies.

    Comment by Don Clifton — March 5, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

  17. Stastically, children are safer from violent and sex crime today than they were in the 70s. So yes: children are safer today — statistically speaking — than they were 20 and 30 years ago.

    Comment by Silus Grok — March 5, 2007 @ 5:57 pm

  18. Of course, child/sexual abuse is more widely reported today than it was 20-30 yrs ago. A lot of common methods of punishment years ago would be classified as child abuse today.

    Tim: not to put too fine a line on it, but if it ain’t written, it’s not a policy… just a practice. I believe this is a policy — specifically, that it’s in the new Bishop’s handbook ( released 3 or 4 months back ).

    I haven’t seen the new handbook, so I can’t know for sure. However, I have not seen this enforced anytime recently.

    Comment by Tim J. — March 5, 2007 @ 6:07 pm

  19. Team teaching is awesome. My wife and I have teamed up in Nursery, Primary and are currently in Sunday School. We trade off weeks to do the lesson, while the other person entertains our toddler. We love it. That’s difficult in some areas though, I’d say the one-way windows are the perfect fix.

    Comment by jjohnsen — March 5, 2007 @ 8:25 pm

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