Child Abuse & Report Cards

By Romeo, Felicia F. | Education, Spring 2000 | Go to article overview

Child Abuse & Report Cards


Romeo, Felicia F., Education


Introduction

One of the most serious problems in our society is the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect of our children. Children are helpless victims of abuse, and they desperately need the assistance of another adult to aid them.

Teachers across the nation are morally and legally responsible to observe children for signs of child abuse and to report their suspicions of this abuse to their respective state Child Abuse Agencies. While teachers are alert for signs of all forms of child abuse, each day of the school year, there is information which suggests that there is a relationship between the issuance of report cards and a rise in the incidence of child abuse.

Many parents give significant meaning to their children's grades on their report card. There are two situations, however, for children that increase the potential of being abused for poor grades on their report card: 1) when their parents are chronically abusive to them, because of the parent's emotional psychopathology, and 2) after a divorce, when a child is allowed to live with the non-custodial parent, with the contingency that the child will not bring home a bad report card. All forms of child abuse place the child at risk for their safety as well as their ability to focus their energy upon the task of learning.

Teachers are in the best position to aid these vulnerable and threatened children. The teacher needs to be hyper-vigilant for signs of child abuse immediately after the issuance of report cards. Children who live with a non-custodial parent with the contingency of a good report card, the teacher needs to have a conference with the custodial parent in order to increase that parent's understanding of the child's learning problems, well in advance of the issuance of report cards.

Incidence Of Child Abuse And Report Cards

National statistics on child abuse do not address the relationship of child abuse to reports cards. Over a two-year period in Cobb County, Georgia, it was found that within three days after school grades were issued, the reports of child abuse doubled (Time, 1989, p. 25). Professional child abuse experts, social workers, and police officers in workshops and seminars on child abuse affirm that there is an increase in the number of children subjected to all forms of abuse after report cards arrive home. In Florida, a father was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for subjecting his eight year old daughter to rape for bringing home a bad report card. He threatened to rape her 400 times if she came home with a single bad report card (Sun Sentinel, 1991, p. 6).

Abusive Parents

Children's report card grades often hold special and significant meaning for their parents. Many parents view their children and their children's actions as psychological extensions of themselves. Parents who are abusive to their children have extremely low self-esteem. They interpret the child's poor report card grades as a reflection and exposure of their own personal inadequacies, failures, and shame. Thus, the poor report card grades serve as a "trigger" for the abusive parent's violence towards the child. The child could receive severe physical beatings as well as emotional abuse, such as being called "dumb" and "stupid" after bringing home a bad report card.

The emotional and verbal abuse is most devastating to the child's psychological well-being. The abusive parent not only physically or sexually abuses the child, but also blames the child for provoking the abuse. These children internalize a message that they are "bad" and "stupid" and, therefore, they deserved the physical beating and/or sexual assault. Thus, the child's self-esteem is eroded during each abusive episode.

Learning Problems And Child Abuse

A child who lives with an abusive parent is in serious danger and lives in an environment permeated with fear. Abusive parents use threats and intimidation to control their children and/or their spouses.

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