What do you know about who is speaking to your children? Does it matter?

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This past weekend, some serious allegations were brought to light regarding a group (more specifically the group’s co-founder) who was scheduled to visit several high schools in my area next month. The result was the co-founder, who was also one of the lead speakers, resigning. I’m guessing he resigned because his past has been highly publicized in the last several weeks causing major uproar and because his current published writing is viewed by some as über controversial, damaging, and inappropriate.

The above scenario has raised more questions in my mind; questions I hadn’t thought about before. I’m not specifically referring to the above group here, I’m talking about guest speakers and groups who visit elementary, middle, and high schools in general. I’d love to know what you think about these questions and what you think about this topic.

I’ve started thinking more about who exactly are we are inviting into our schools to talk to our children when we invite groups or speakers? Does it matter who they are personally and what their backgrounds are?

Do schools have policies and procedures for screening groups or individuals they are hosting? Should they?

Are each speaker’s actual qualifications checked? How (specifically) are they qualified and have they been trained to work with kids/teens? Does personal experience alone without proper training or experience working with kids seem acceptable?

Do speakers have to have background checks like teachers, parents, and all other school volunteers? Does that seem necessary?

When a speaker does visit your school, are there specific rules about whether or not children/teens can then “friend” the adult speakers on Facebook or interact with the adults out of the school setting? “Friending” school speakers and lecturers seems to be becoming a popular thing to do. Seems inappropriate to me, if it’s the adult’s personal Facebook page, but what do you think?

Are the speakers trained professionals with a clear understanding of their legal obligation to report crimes such as physical or sexual abuse when students disclose this type information to them?

Are there required counselors and experts on hand when speech topics touch on personal issues that may trigger emotional responses from students such as eating disorders, abuse, self-esteem, sex, rape, illness, addiction, etc?

Does it matter if groups or speakers are involved with other groups or companies that the school would not want represented at their school? Are these things even thought about?

I had never thought about any of these questions until this weekend. We are living in a completely different time than when you and I grew up. Kids are on-line Googling whatever or whoever they want and kids are “friend requesting” people we don’t know on Facebook too. (Just for the record: this is not happening in our house.)

How involved should parents be? What should we allow? Should we care about who is invited into their schools to speak to them as role models and mentors? What do we know about these people? Does your child’s school have a policy pertaining to this? Do you think all these questions even matter?

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Kerr
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 15:47:36

    You ask some very important questions here, especially these: “Does it matter if groups or speakers are involved with other groups or companies that the school would not want represented at their school? Are these things even thought about?”

    In 1998, I was a senior in high school and a group called City Conquest came to my public high school. It was their second or third time at the school. They not had powerful speakers, they caught our attention with pop culture references, dance and theater geared toward saying no to drugs and anti-suicide messages. This pleased the school.

    As it turns out, City Conquest hadn’t disclosed their full identity to our school. They were an Evangelical group called Master’s Commission that came from Phoenix, Arizona (they are now in Dallas, TX) speaking all over the country to students. The speaking event didn’t end at school–they had people waiting in the lobby who were there to hand out flyers, personally inviting us to attend a show that night at a local church.

    I went and during the weeks that followed, I was recruited into what my therapist later called a cult that resulted in psychological trauma. Since then, I’ve been advocating against this type of recruiting but it’s not always easy to spot even with an attentive eye. I suppose the best way I know how is to have a watchful eye, ask a lot of questions and when in doubt, stick with your gut feelings.

    Here’s a bit of an interview I did last year on an NPR affiliate about the group: http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/Examining_Cult_Culture.mp3/view


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