Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Beyond Reporting Suspected Abuse: Positively Influencing the Development of the Student within the Classroom

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Beyond Reporting Suspected Abuse: Positively Influencing the Development of the Student within the Classroom

Article excerpt

Clearly, intellectual and educational development is the primary concern of schools and of teachers and counselors (Drummond & Ryan, 1995; Schmidt, 1996).

Teachers facilitate this agenda by their commitment to expanding intellect and sharing knowledge. School counselors further this agenda by attending to the enhancement of personal and social skills necessary for educational development and eventual career success.When teachers and counselors collaborate, the educational agenda is moved forward.

An ideal focus for teacher-counselor collaborations are the preventative and developmental interventions of program-oriented guidance. In position-oriented guidance programs, crisis intervention may be the primary reason for initiating collaboration (Gysbers, 1990). Regardless of orientation, responding to suspicions or allegations of child abuse and neglect is one form of crisis-driven collaboration among school personnel (Gibson, Mitchell, & Basile, 1993; Muro & Kottman, 1995).


When child-rearing practices fail to provide or extend beyond generally acceptable guidelines for providing basic care, affection and/or discipline; and when such deficits or excesses are known or suspected, these practices are labeled as neglectful or physically, sexually, or emotionally abusive (California Department of Justice, 1993; Muro & Kottman, 1995). In the United States, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws that require schools and their agents to report suspicions or allegations of child abuse and neglect to a local agency mandated to protect children (Schmidt, 1996). Due to increasing awareness of, and sensitivity to, child abuse and neglect, reports of suspected child abuse rose 158% from the 1970s to the 1980s in the United States (American Humane Association,1986), and from 1.7 million in 1986 to 2.4 million in 1990 an additional 19% (Daro & Mitchel,1990).

As government-mandated reporters of child abuse, elementary, middle, and secondary teachers and counselors are responsible for recognizing when a student is at risk, and for notifying the appropriate agencies. Reporting increases the potential for immediate or eventual social service and family intervention, but it is in the classroom that teachers and counselors have the greatest chance of making a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children.

A review of the literature reveals that, while guidelines for mandated reporting are included in teacher education texts, little or no attention is given to how to respond when the impact of neglect and abuse takes a toll on the educational development of the child (Gearheart, Weishahn, & Gearheart, 1996; Hallahan & Kauffman, 1994; Hardman, Drew, & Egan, 1996).


The family is the context in which the personality is formed (Garbarino,1992; Mahler, Pine, & Bergman,1975). By the time children arrive at school, characteristic ways of being with self and with others are observable. While the basic structure of a child's personality is not readily available for alteration by the classroom teacher, self-concept and selfin-relation-to-others are two dimensions of human development that can undergo considerable change during the child's tenure at school (Bandura 1986).

A primary experience of children who are abused/neglected is a profound sense of loss and betrayal (Black,1990; Iverson & Segal, 1990; Muro & Kottman, 1995). As in other circumstances of grief, abuse and neglect undermine confidence and rob children of the energies necessary for optimal growth and development (Brown, 1991; Muro & Kottman, 1995). While intervention by social service professionals is designed to prevent further abuse and offer remediation when possible, the classroom teacher has a far greater opportunity to help restore a child's energy and facilitate continued growth and development. …

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