Keeping your kids safe when you send them away to school

April 19, 2017 05:32 PM

TROY -- From the outset, it's an unfair relationship between a teacher and a student, according to Psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Ferraioli.

"That power differential means you're not on a level playing field, so this person down here, the student or the athlete or whoever, is vulnerable to being taken advantage of by this person up here," Dr. Ferraioli said.

That was the situation at Emma Willard revealed in a comprehensive report on sexual misconduct. The report details allegations of staff and students at the boarding school in Troy involved in relationships in the span of several decades.

Former student Kat Sullivan's claim that she was raped by a male teacher and the school tried to cover it up, is one of many allegations that triggered the report. Dr. Ferraioli said it's a complete failure in leadership and guidance.

"Because they idealize you. That idealization is supposed to be used for the good," Dr. Ferraioli told Newschannel 13. "It's that power, so to speak, is supposed to be used for the benefit of the vulnerable one."

He also said the misconduct can be calculated with a sort of grooming process that takes place to identify the most vulnerable ones to take advantage of.

"This has been a problem for years. The grooming process, this has been tainted has been poisoned by this person's self interest for years," he said.

Protecting your kids from that kind of environment could be a challenge, according to Ferraioli. He said communication and close supervision is key. But anytime you put your underage child out of your reach, it gets riskier. The best advice he said, when you send your kids away, just don't forget about them. In fact you should increase the monitoring.

The school is also doing its part. The national association of independent schools created a task force. They will recommend ways to prevent educator sexual misconduct at boarding schools.

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Dan Bazile

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