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If your child reports inappropriate teacher conduct, it is important to get involved, immediately. How you handle the situation depends very much on the type of inappropriate conduct involved. For example, if a teacher yells at a student, you will follow a much different path than if the child reports sexual or physical abuse.
For the situation where a child reports inappropriate conduct by a teacher like yelling, or where students simply say things like the “teacher made fun of me in class,” you might first try to address such conduct with the teacher. Often, children have a skewed perception of events that occur. A statement like “She gave me a detention for nothing,” has to be taken with a grain of salt. Statements like “He’s just mean to me,” could mean many things.
Because it is difficult for a child to function well in a class where he feels he is disliked or unfairly targeted, going to the teacher and hearing his or her side of an incident is a useful first step in resolving the issue. In this process, try to remain calm. Adding your anger or frustration to the problem is likely to get you less help, since you will be viewed as unreasonable.
Often, a parent hears a very different story and perception from the teacher than he or she hears from the child. Deciding which or if both perceptions are partially correct can help you decide what further actions may need to be taken. If you sincerely believe your child and the teacher seems to evade or admits to inappropriate behavior, it’s time to involve the school administrators.
If this is the second or third incident that you have tried to resolve, however, and you believe your child is telling the truth, going to the teacher first may not be your best bet. Instead, you may want to report continued inappropriate teacher conduct to the school’s principal. You may also want to make a request, where it seems a situation will not be resolved, to have a child transferred to another class. Sometimes, the best teachers and the best students are not a good personality fit. When this is the case, your child, the teacher, and the class might all be served by requesting a transfer, if possible.
If a child reports behavior that involves touching, sexual conduct, sexual innuendo, or physical violence, going to the teacher is not the best choice. In this case, you should not even want to report to the school’s administration first. For safety’s sake, you may not want to send the child back to school until the matter has been fully investigated. If you truly suspect conduct that breaks laws, your first stop should be the police department.
You can, if you feel you will be supported, also inform the administration, but there is risk here. The administration might not believe you, and might tip off a teacher or ask a few questions that would alert a him or her. This can give the teacher the option of fleeing before investigation begins. These incidents are rare, as compared to the vast number of teachers, but they do occur, even with the best screening. Informing the police first is your best course of action, since they can begin an investigation immediately and gather evidence from your child, and possibly other children, while memories are still fresh.