Educators address child-abuse issues

Dec 16, 2003 — By law in a majority of states, teachers and administrators must report suspected cases of child abuse involving students. But how does an educator become trained to recognize abuse? And how can a school create an environment in which a child feels safe enough to come forward when abused?

These and other issues related to child abuse are components of policies regarding the conduct of educators and “mandated reporting” promulgated by the Association of Modern Orthodox Day Schools and Yeshiva High Schools (AMODS). AMODS was established in 1999 under the auspices of the Max Stern Division of Communal Services of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary to coordinate and deploy the educational strengths and resources of YU to improve the quality of member school’s educational offerings.

The policies were presented for approval at AMODS’ fifth annual conference, Dec. 7-8 at the New York Airport Hilton, attended by principals and lay leaders representing 40 schools from as far away as Canada, Washington, and Texas.

“Although we are hopeful that such abuse happens less in our community, we realize it does occur,” said Jeremiah Unterman, PhD, AMODS director. “We must be on the lookout to protect our children, whether it is physical or psychological abuse or neglect,” he said.

At the conference, a panel of three experts—clinical psychiatrist Atara J. Berliner, PhD, a psychologist at the Ramaz Middle School; David Pelcovitz, PhD, director of psychology at North Shore University Hospital-NYU School of Medicine; and Rabbi Yosef Blau, YU mashgiach ruhani [spiritual guidance counselor]—discussed the need for adopting AMODS’ policies, the first dealing with the behavior of faculty and staff towards students; the second delineating the education a school must provide its employees to be informed mandated reporters.

After the discussion, attendees endorsed a resolution that obligates them to recommend to their respective school boards that these policies be accepted.

“These guidelines perform an important service to protect our children, our parents, and our teachers and we applaud AMODS for bringing attention to this issue on a national level,” said Harry Kozlovsky, Yeshivat Rambam of Baltimore president, a conference attendee. “At Yeshivat Rambam we are planning a series of workshops to address this issue.”

The session on policies was one of 12 during the two-day gathering, titled “Funding and Marketing of the Schools.” Other sessions covered innovative curriculum development projects in Humash, Israel studies/religious Zionism for elementary schools, and a presentation on AMODS’ pilot project, Angel, a Web-based classroom management system that links students, teachers and schools in the Association network. It is currently in use at YU’s Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy.

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