“I loved music, until my music teacher got upset at one of my classmates, aggressively grabbed him by the neck, kicked him out of the class and swore at him” Sebastian in grade 5.
Still I cannot believe what Sebastian told me and happened in his school, in “Beverly Acres Public School” in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, about a maltreatment, physical and verbal abuse of a 10 years old child in front of the whole class! When I told Sebastian that I am going to write up the incident in my website and the world will know about it, he was excited to hear what others might think of the situation and condemn the abuse by their teacher!
“Children of a lesser God” is originally a play by Medoff that in 1986 was adapted to a feature film, about a school for the deafs, their sufferings and struggles to learn. While any physical defect of a child could be considered by some or the child himself or herself as being of a lesser attention by the God to him or her, the mental defects of a child and more importantly so, the trauma, maltreatment and abuse that befall on a normal and healthy child could be taken as such.
A search in “pubmed” of the NIH (National Institute of Health) of the United States, reveals the following number of research papers: on child abuse in total:40331; child abuse by teachers:412; by clergy:115; by preiests:123! The child welfare of the US government reports that relatives, babysitters, and foster parents are the common perpetrators. The American humane association reports the following rate of common child abuse and maltreatments: neglect 62.8% as the highest type of abuse; physical abuse 16.6%; sexual abuse 7.1%; emotional and psychological abuse 7.1%; medical neglect 2% and “others” at 14.3%. Canadian child welfare agency, reports that in 2007, there were an estimated 67,000 children in out-of-home care across Canada. The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect reports an increase of abuse reports from 135,261 in 1998 to 235,315 in 2003 and 235,842 in 2008. Neglect and exposure to intimate partner abuse and violence has been reported at 34% to be the highest, followed by physical abuse at 20%, emotional maltreatment at 9% and sexual abuse at 3%, different than the statistics in US, though both are similar in being western, mainly English speaking societies with multi-cultural striatum. Child issues that perhaps triggered more abuse by the perpetrators have been reported to be Academic difficulties: 23%; depression, anxiety, withdrawal: 19%; Aggression: 15%; Attachment issues: 14%;Intellectual & developmental disabilities: 11%; and ADD/ADHD: 11%. Care-givers risk factors have been reported to be the highest among the victims of domestic violence and abuse at 46%. Schools have been the most common source of abuse reports at 24%.
The above statistics, while at least in the Canadian agency report, has been admitted to be only the tip of the iceberg and many cases are probably under the water of un-detection and non-reports, are quite eye-opening for two highly civilized western societies. First of all abuse comes in different types as some may not know, and the highest form is “neglect” of the child care and welfare at almost 63%! The incidence of child abuse is rising and not decreasing. Since many children in the western societies live under the roof of single parenthood, specially mothers and since such mothers often enter intimate relationships, sometimes with more than one partner at different times, the abuse of child by the intimate partner seems to be the highest at 34% by any others in the child environment. These “children of a lesser God” who often may have some physical or mental/behavioural issues such as depression, anxiety, withdrawal; anger management problems; attachment issues; Intellectual & developmental disabilities; and ADD/ADHD would trigger not empathy and fair treatment or proper help seeking, but abuse by the hands of the closest and most trusted care-givers! These abusive care-givers who half of them had such a maltreatment and unfortunate history themselves, repeat the same non-human treatments to their own children.
Schools that have been the most common source of child abuse and maltreatments in these western lands, have apparently been reported the least as the source of abuse and maltreatments, at least by a simple calculation of the number research of abuse by teachers, that is about 1% of the total abuse research. These scant research and reports mostly come from developing countries in Africa, middle east and under-developed societies of Europe, and less of civilized, western societies. (3-6) One of these rare research reports have been done on “verbal abuse of children by the teachers from kindergarten through grade 6” by Brendgen and colleagues in Quebec, Canada in 2006.(7) This is despite the fact as this paper, asserted that “Many adults mention past incidences of verbal abuse by the teacher as the most overwhelming negative experience in their lives.” This study followed 399 children (177 girls) over a period of 7 years, starting in kindergarten. Verbal abuse by the teacher, as well as acceptance versus rejection by the peer group from kindergarten through grade 4, were assessed. The results showed that while the vast majority of children (approximately 85%) have almost 0 risk of becoming a target of verbal abuse by the teacher over the course of the elementary school, however, a small minority of children (15%)were at relatively high risk of verbal abuse by the teacher from kindergarten through the course of the elementary school. Boys, as well as children with high levels of early antisocial behavior and attention problems were at higher risk of verbal abuse. In follow ups, verbal abuse by the teacher was significantly related to subsequent delinquent behavior and academic difficulties in early adolescence.
Other than the above Canadian study, in recent years it is rare to find any study of any form of abuse of children by the teachers or school authorities in the western world, and the latest will go back to 1980’s. (8) This could be either due to the rarity of such incidents in schools, or lack of report by the school authorities, or the children themselves not reporting to their parents, etc. The case that Sebastian told me about and happened to his friend and classmate, Ryan draws suspicion to the lack of report of abuse and maltreatment by the school teachers and authorities. This surprising incident involved four types of abuse and maltreatment at once, physical abuse of grabbing the child, kicking him physically out of the classroom, emotionally and verbally abusing him by shouting “I do not want to see your face again”. Moreover the abuse occurred in front of the whole class and was degrading and confidence crashing to the child, as children often blame themselves for the abuse as it has been their faults to initiate the abuse!
The above incident that happened in “Beverly Acres Public School” in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada by a music teacher in front of the whole class, was later on supported and covered up by the school vice principal and principal, per Ryan’s mother report that her complaint to them did not succeed. After a couple of weeks of so claimed “investigation” by the school vice principal and principal, they reported that there have been “accusations and allegations”! I was personally surprised to hear all these, as children of abuse, do not lie and do not accuse as they are probably not familiar with such terms of the adult world. Ryan’s mother had also been told that the school board and the Children Aids Society (CAS) have been contacted, but there was no investigation or special report from the school board or CAS were conducted! This case and alike that could be rare or common but not reported or neglected to report as it happened in the above-mentioned school, need to be brought up to the surface, reported, studied and appropriate prevention plans implemented.
Unfortunately a browse through the “education act of Ontario” of 1990, updated April 19, 2016 (9) under section “300.0.1” only “To address inappropriate pupil behaviour and promote early intervention.” and “ To provide support to pupils who are impacted by inappropriate behaviour of other pupils.” there is no address to the possible inappropriate and abusive behaviours of the teachers or school authorities to the pupils! Perhaps there is the wrong assumption that the teachers and the school authorities are safe, but similar wrong misconceptions about the clergy and priests have led to many abusive discoveries reported to the public and research arena. There is recently so much ado about “bullying” in schools by other pupils that in Ontario and the above education act, there is a clause for “Bullying awareness and prevention week”! But teachers, principals, vice principals and other school staff, who are in position of high authorities over very young children, specially in the elementary schools, where no parents present, could be a major source of bullying and overpowering, misuse and abuse of their trusted positions, as it happened in the case of Ryan, protected and reported by his friend, Sebastian.
Dr.Mostafa Showraki, MD, FRCPC Lecturer, School of Medicine, University of Toronto,Author: “ADHD:Revisited” Book/ “adhdrevisited.com”/”medicinerevisited.com”
- Child abuse and neglect statistics.(2007).americanhumane.org.
- Canadian incidence study of reported child abuse and neglect (CIS-2008). Canadian child welfare research portal.cwrp.ca.
- Theoklitou D, Kabitsis N, Kabitsi A. Physical and emotional abuse of primary school children by teachers. Child Abuse Negl. 2012 Jan;36(1):64-70.
- Shumba A. The nature, extent and effects of emotional abuse on primary school pupils by teachers in Zimbabwe. Child Abuse Negl. 2002 Aug;26(8):783-91.
- Benbenishty R, Zeira A, Astor RA, Khoury-Kassabri M. Maltreatment of primary school students by educational staff in Israel. Child Abuse Negl. 2002 Dec;26(12):1291-309.
- Khoury-Kassabri M. The relationship between staff maltreatment of students and bully-victim group membership. Child Abuse Negl. 2009 Dec;33(12):914-23. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2009.05.005.
- Brendgen M, Wanner B, Vitaro F. Verbal abuse by the teacher and child adjustment from kindergarten through grade 6. Pediatrics. 2006 May;117(5):1585-98.
- Krugman RD, Krugman MK. Emotional abuse in the classroom. The pediatrician’s role in diagnosis and treatment. Am J Dis Child. 1984 Mar;138(3):284