HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO)—Some children are at increased risk of harm as their lives move towards learning virtually, and are also making it harder for teachers to spot abuse, Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said schools are a safe haven for a lot of kids and abuse is not only a crisis that takes place in our communities but throughout the whole state of Texas.
“The schools are where a lot of the administrators, the teachers, find out what’s going on with a lot of these kids in their homes, and what they are going back to,” said Rodriguez.
Teachers can play a critical role in spotting abuse. Sylvia Tanguma a dyslexia teacher for McAllen Independent School District, said teachers might be the only help a child has in these situations.
When students are in the classroom, teachers are trained to notice changes in behavior or attitude.
“They withdraw themselves from conversations, or we listen to the conversations that they have that may trigger you to suspect that their maybe abuse,” said Tanguma.
With remote learning, Tanguma says some students will not turn on their camer or join in, giving teachers less of an opportunity to spot abuse.
“We never get to see them, so it’s virtually impossible to detect anything like that. All we can do is reach out via phone calls, and see if we can connect with the child and the parent. Just to check upon them, and see how they are doing,” said Tanguma.
Educators say they have to know their students and be aware to know something is not right.
“How would we do it virtually? All we can do is pray and hope that they turn their camera on, and if we make phone calls they answer the phone.” said Tanguma.
Rodriguez says not having as many eyes on the students during school hours puts some children at risk.
“It puts the child in much more danger, in the sense of not having anyone to really pay attention, as to what going on with these kids,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez says equally important to spotting abuse is prevention awareness. Throughout the month of April, Rodriguez’s office is hosting events to raise awareness about child abuse, and sexual assault awareness.
Educating the public on signs to look for, knowing who to call for help so you can be a voice for children in the community suffering from abuse.
“How is it that we can get involved to help out? A lot of these cases that we have that we prosecute, it started somewhere. It started where a child voiced a concern to a family member, voiced a concern to a relative, voiced a concern to a friend and that’s where it starts,” said Rodriguez.
Teachers say with many students learning remotely, they are giving out their cell phones to students and parents, and if there are any issue they hope they will be trusting enough to call for help.