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Teachers express scepticism as superintendents review schools' response to harassment

Teachers express scepticism as superintendents review schools' response to harassment

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Marta Grzeszczuk,
11.04.2024 13:45

Barbara Nowacka, the Education Minister, has ordered school superintendent inspections in response to reports of sexual harassment. However, experts in the education field argue that this approach won't address the underlying issues.

On 3 April, the case of a 14-year-old boy named Alex made headlines across the country. During a pre-election meeting with Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Alex shared about the sexual abuse he had reported at school two years prior and asked for intervention. Instead of receiving support, Alex and his parents were summoned by the school's management to appear in family court.

Barbara Nowacka ordered superintendents to inspect schools

Tusk promised a 14-year-old that the Attorney General's Office would handle his case. Monika Horna-Cieślak, the Ombudsman for Children, has also personally taken charge of the case. Barbara Nowacka, the Minister of National Education, has ordered education superintendents to inspect how suspected sexual harassment cases were handled in all schools in Poland over the last eight years.

However, pedagogues and educationalists who commented on this order for krakow.wyborcza.pl do not believe that the Ministry's actions will help address the problem. They emphasise that superintendents' control of school documentation will have no effect.

"Controlling the papers is like judging a restaurant by its menu without tasting the food. The menu may be great, but what really counts is what ends up on the plate [...]. The menu doesn't stink," a Polish language teacher from Łódź, Dariusz Chętkowski, wrote on his blog.

The solution to the problem is not to be found in school documents

The headmistress of Primary School No. 2 in Krakow, Jolanta Gajęcka, spoke out about a concerning situation where children could be at risk. In an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza, she explained that if a child were to report being sexually abused and no action was taken, there would be no evidence of the incident. She criticised the current system of inspections, calling it ineffective.

Gajęcka also expressed her frustration with the Children's Ombudsman's office's lack of urgency when she reached out to them for help with a student in need. She believes that the recent media attention surrounding this issue is the only reason action is being taken and that this is not an acceptable solution.

Schools are not prepared to respond to harassment cases

Teachers stress the importance of providing training to teaching staff and headteachers on how to handle cases of sexual abuse, which could be more helpful and necessary than just verifying documents. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, psychologist Natalia Jurkiewicz conducted a study revealing the lack of competency among adults in providing appropriate responses and support to young people who have been affected by abuse.

"Adults, both teachers and parents, often refer to alarming behaviours as natural elements of the formation of relationships between boys and girls or within a given gender [...] they also may not know how to effectively intervene or communicate with both the victim and perpetrator of sexually abusive behaviours," Jurkiewicz wrote.

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza

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