by Elena Aluskak
When we think about our children and then our grandchildren, prayers are instantly uttered for their safety… vocally, mentally. We want them to be safe. We want them to be nurtured. We want them to be protected. Wherever they may be… and whatever they may be doing, enduring. That is just how we are as caregivers, no matter if we are “imperfect” or “upstanding”. We wish our children to be in good hands, to be looked after in the same manner as we do.
My grown children know their children are protected with me, us – grandparents, so it is easy for them to place their children in our care, with a legitimate degree of confidence of their safety. It’s only natural. It is then even more natural to feel confidence, when we know and are unquestionably sure that our children will be in good hands in a ‘mandated’ setting.
There are places where we are mandated by law to ensure that our children are following the standards set by the system to be brought at a certain time or age. Rather, the system wants to make sure we are not neglectful, breaking child laws, etc. that we have to take certain steps at certain times in the lives of our children. One mandatory setting is the school. Another is a health facility; hospital, clinic.
Talking about schools; it is odd that this is the place where our children have been and are getting abused and neglected these days. The hurt and neglect is instigated by their peers and by their instructors and even by those we deem the highest respect for in that discipline; certified classroom teachers and principals.
This is not a surprise read by all means. And it is not something we are not aware of. We have read it through other means of public media in the past… recent past. We have heard it from caregivers who unfortunately have experienced it with their children. The abuse has come and still comes in many different forms; neglect, physical, mental, emotional and sexual.
It is coming to a point where many of us are beginning to feel very unsure about safety and even question if we should continue to send them to school; a national mandated learning setting. We also know if we don’t follow through it can place us in a hotspot. That sort of puts us in a rough spot, doesn’t it? Where does our protection for our children fit in, in all of this questionable, mandatory system? And it is not that we do not want our children to go without this wonderful systematic education because it is benefiting in many ways. We do want our children to become literate in this other culture to at least read and write, to hold down a job, to understand the essential bumps and blocks and how to go around them, etc.
And school ages usually range from about 3-4 year olds to 18. These children start very young. Very naïve, believable, vulnerable, and eager to begin ‘normal’ relationships, with their peers, teachers, principals, and anyone holding down a school job. While we caregivers are at home, feeling good about our children attending school and at times clueless to what some of them are going through.
We have to start talking to our local leaders and make sure our children will be heard and actions will be taken to justify their outcry. We have to make sure their testimony is followed through. Each village has a school board that is chosen to do a certain task on behalf of their village children and especially the school children, those attending their local schools. On another note, villages and towns also have safety officers; tribal and city police and state troopers who also should be making sure these outcries A.K.A. reports are investigated thoroughly and even prosecuted.
Community members should be attending all school related meetings and school doors should be open at all times to student caregivers to visit; care givers have every right to make sure children will not be put in a vulnerable spot and made to feel helpless in any way in the care of the school system. Our children should not be experiencing abuse in any form within the walls of a setting where they are expected to learn what is mandated by law, and when they do experience the unexpected it should be handled already before it escalates. The educated school officials have full understanding of the law and what the outcome will be when the law is broken toward the children, around the issues of abuse and namely child sexual abuse.
I encourage all of us to be more diligent in the safety of our children, and to seek for lawful resolution when it does come to our children’s jeopardy within the schools; after all our children spend the majority of their childhood hours in this environment, as charged by law.
Elena W Aluskak is the Outreach Coordinator/Child Forensic Interviewer for Irniamta Ikayurviat, Bethel, Alaska.