The world has had to change these past six months in response to the worldwide pandemic. As an educator for 29 years, I have watched how schools had to pivot to online learning in a matter of hours and applaud their commitment to continue educating children.
Fast forward to today, five months later, and returning to “normal” appears to be a long-term goal, rather than an immediate goal. We continue to watch the daily COVID-19 news updates, monitoring multiple opening day scenarios with most schools opening in less than two months. I believe schools are doing their absolute best to prepare for any scenario in how schools resume.
But as a former principal and now Director Strategic Partnerships and Grants for the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children, I am worried. With all these possible changes and scenarios, who is thinking of the safety of children in all types of learning environments, and planning accordingly?
During COVID-19, calls to the child abuse hotlines have plummeted while calls to domestic violence hotlines have increased. Whether schools return to “normal,” hybrid, or remain completely virtual, we need to continue talking about the thousands of children and youth sheltering in some very dangerous places. If education is to be resumed in virtual learning environments in September, we must help children who remain in dangerous homes. If students are lucky to return to campus, schools must prepare to help children who have been exposed to abuse and neglect for the past six months.
Schools need to strategize how best to help these children and the families they serve and this intervention must start now. Educators are one of the top mandatory reporters. We need them intervening again — and now.
The Beau Biden Foundation offers an accredited education workshop — “Protecting Children in a Virtual Learning Environment” — for all schools and youth-serving organizations. The safety of children must be paramount to every school’s plan. This session will train how to recognize abuse in virtual environments. The training also reviews key policies and procedures needed to prevent grooming and abuse of children within an organization, even when your school is delivering learning in a virtual environment. Working with the Beau Biden Foundation will make a difference for every child you serve. Together, we will protect children from abuse. Learn more about how you can help protect children and confront abuse at www.BeauBidenFoundation.org/Workshops.