2018-09-10 / Sports

Protecting students from abuse

The pressbox
Lisa Paine Sports editor

The National Federation of High School Associations, based in Indianapolis, Ind., has taken further steps to help parents and their high school and college-aged kids know the signs and what to do if they feel they are in an abuse situation. The free online course, developed in conjunction with U.S. Center for SafeSport (The Center), and titled “Protecting Students from Abuse” covers topics such as bullying, harassment, hazing, physical, emotional and sexual abuse and misconduct in sport.

No matter how many blue-shirt and teal-shirt rallies take place every year at schools, bullying and sexual abuse of students and student-athletes continues. The fall sports present an even bigger opportunity for this to take place because so many of the sports take place under the cover of dark, in large stadiums and kids are on dark school buses late at night. That’s a nightmare for any district to handle. How do you have that many sets of eyes on kids, often unsupervised, in those situations? The meat of this online course seeks to give the students in particular specifics on types of abusive behaviors and misconduct, whether by teammates, opponents, coaches or adults; how to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse, and in particular, how to report such behavior. A comprehensive list of when to report an incident and when not to, is also highlighted.

We all know about the Okay to Say and See Something, Say Something apps that allow anyone to anonymously report a variety of incidents, which includes many of the topics in the online course. This is just one more avenue and tool kit to help the NFHS and its member schools reach out and increase awareness for students and parents.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport says its vision is “to make sure that athletes are safe, supported and strengthened through sports.” It only takes one bad incident to turn a child away from sports. It may be from something that has happened to them, or in many cases, something they witnessed. Locker room shenanigans may seem innocent and just kids being kids. It’s knowing the difference between that and outright bullying and abuse that the NFHS and The Center hopes to educate students and their parents about.

Take the course with your kids. Sit down with them, go through the slides and quizzes, and have some healthy conversations about the topics addressed. As the nation continues to deal with the fallout from the recent Larry Nassar sexual abuse case at Michigan State, everything we can all do to help prevent any of these abuses from happening is paramount to the safe and healthy sports experience all of our kids will be involved in. More and more athletes across the country continue to step up and say Me Too. Don’t let your son or daughter, niece or nephew, or grandchildren become part of that statistic. Help them become the generation that bands together to put a stop to the age-old and not so acceptable practices of hazing, bullying and assault on high school and college campuses.

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