As stories of inappropriate relationships between teachers and students continue to flood the airwaves, school district officials are looking for answers.
But, where to turn?
Alliant professor and forensic psychologist Dr. Glenn Lipson, PhD has been crisscrossing Southern California counties for the last four years, educating communities on how to stop these problems before they start.
“This really has been a community participation. Something good emerges when you all come together and talk,” Lipson said.
Describing the meetings as a “movement,” Lipson has developed a proactive online program for schools to reduce sexual impropriety in the classroom.
MakingRightChoices.com provides online training, seminars and policy analysis to school district officials.
Included in those meetings is a broad spectrum of community members, including classified employees, parents, students and law enforcement.
Districts’ hiring processes and prospective employee screenings are also closely examined to promote an awareness of just how things that look so good can turn bad.
“It’s really a collaborative effort. I just happen to be the person marshaling it,” he said, adding his work is informed by years of experience profiling the criminal mind.
According to Lipson, 133 school districts have signed on to take part in the training and roughly 4,200 San Diego educators and 2,500 in Chino Hills have participated in the program.
“The elementary schools are the hardest to work with because we don’t want to believe there are monsters there,” Lipson said.
Facing that possibility head-on is ultimately what schools must do if they are serious about preventing inappropriate relationships between teachers and students.
Even more important is distinguishing between the “monsters,” and those misguided adults who find themselves crossing a dangerous line.
“There are people who (get involved with minors), by virtue of their own problems,” he said.
Therefore, establishing and reinforcing boundaries, rooting out risk factors and finding ways to allow staff and students to engage in a natural, healthy way are among the program’s goals, according to Lipson.
For districts burdened by a financial crunch, Lipson said that funds available through schools’ risk management budgets and applied to the prevention program are a safer bet than the long-term economic ramifications of future lawsuits.
“The cost value of doing something proactive is really helpful,” he said.
As Lipson maintains his full-time work as a professor and continues his travels, he is also working with legislators to pursue new laws that will protect children from predators in the classroom.
Lipson said: ‘We’re writing policies that make sense for schools. So far, it’s been a gradual process of adding people into the mix. It will take an entire community to address this problem.”
To learn more, visit makingrightchoices.com.
Kerri S. Mabee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @kerrimabee.