Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Talented Youth: Bullied and Awarded

This post has good news and bad news for gifted and talented youth.

First, the bad news. A study by the U.K.-based Anti-Bullying Alliance found that:
  • More than 90 percent of British children have been bullied or saw others being bullied because they are gifted and talented.
  • More than a quarter of the 11-16-year-olds surveyed said they quit an activity for fear of being bullied, and half downplayed a talent for the same reason.
  • One in ten children hid their science ability, and one in five girls (and one in ten boys) deliberately underachieved in math to avoid being bullied.
This U.K. study's findings are consistent with a previous U.S. study that found high-achieving students' (especially African-Americans and Latinos) grades dropped as a result of bullying. And a University of Virginia study also found a link between bullying and high school dropout rates.

Now, the good news for talented youth. First Lady Michelle Obama presented Oakland's Youth Radio with the 2012 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs. Among the awarded programs were a New York debate league, an African culture group, and a mariachi apprentice program honoring the Mexican-American experience in Los Angeles.

At the White House awards ceremony, the First Lady said, "In spite of all the challenges and obstacles our young people face, in spite of all their fears and doubts, you teach them art anyway. You teach them that no matter what life throws their way, if they draw back on their own talent, creativity and courage; if they're persistent and tenacious and bold, then they can truly make something extraordinary out of their lives."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Principal Sentenced to Teach

In the second "failure to report" case in two decades brought by Santa Clara County prosecutors, O.B. Whaley Elementary School's former principal, Lyn Vijayendran, was convicted of failing to report suspected sexual abuse of a student by one of her teachers.

The judge told Vijayendran "you made a very bad judgment that day," then sentenced her to pay $602 in criminal fines, two years of probation, and 100 hours of community service, which will include helping teach other school officials about their legal duty to report suspected child abuse.

The jury forewoman said Vijayendran "dropped the ball." Another juror said the principal "stuck her head in the sand rather than pull the alarm. I think she didn't want this ugly thing to be true."

The eight-year-old girl's mother told Vijayendran that second-grade teacher Craig Chandler had acted "strangely" with her daughter, and showed the principal a suspicious stain on her daughter's jacket.  Vijayendran then interviewed the girl who provided vivid details of her strange encounter with Mr. Chandler.

Vijayendran testified that Mr. Chandler "appeared forthright" when he told her that blindfolding a second-grade girl, telling her to lie on the floor, and putting a salty liquid in her mouth while they were alone in the classroom was part of a lesson plan about Helen Keller.

Vijayendran's decision to conduct her own investigation, instead of reporting the incident to authorities as the law requires of mandatory reporters, resulted in her criminal conviction and allowed Mr. Chandler to molest another student a few months later.

Under California law, school districts are required to train their educators how to recognize and report suspected child abuse. While the law provides an exception — a school district may simply write a letter explaining why training was not provided — jurors said the Evergreen School District shared some responsibility in this case.

"I think there were comments made that over a 20-year period, that people from the teachers all the way up to the principals all the way up to HR that they've received no training on mandatory reporting," said juror Kathy Ericksen. Juror Susan LaGassa agreed, "Educators need to know that this is unacceptable."

"The bigger picture," said prosecutor Alison Filo, "is we want mandated reporters to understand to always err on the side of caution and report, never investigate."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Suspicious Minds

What do the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts, and Penn State University have in common with the Horace Mann School in New York City and Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles?  They all had trusted members of their organizations who were involved in child sex abuse scandals.

Now, "The BBC's reputation is on the line," says Chris Patten, the chairman of the BBC Trust.  Police are describing disc jockey and BBC television host Jimmy Savile (who died last year at age 84) as "one of the worst sex offenders in recent history." Given recent history, that's a pretty big claim.

This latest BBC scandal began when a television documentary aired in October in which several women claimed that they were sexually abused by Savile when they were in their early teens. Hundreds of potential victims have since come forward with similar claims.

In connection with the Savile investigation, police arrested musician and convicted sex offender Gary Glitter (known for his shiny jumpsuits and whose real name is Paul Gadd).  Glitter served a U.K. prison term in 1999 for possession of child pornography. After moving to Vietnam, he was convicted of child abuse in 2006 and deported back to Britain in 2008. Glitter is best known for the crowd-pleasing hit "Rock & Roll (Part 2)" which, in 2006, the National Football League advised teams not to use at games.

Questions are now being raised about whether the BBC was involved in a cover-up, and whether Savile was at the center of a broader pedophile ring. All of this leaves some of us wondering, who can you trust?

"As a society, we've just got to somehow get over this notion that some men, some women, some institutions, are 100 percent pristine and trustworthy," said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "We've got to look at actual behavior, not reputation."