In Tips
Rochelle’s Special Education Tips

If It Looks Like a Duck, Swims Like a Duck, and Quacks Like a Duck, Then It Probably Is a Duck

This week’s Tips is a little different, and is written because the writer had three (3) grooming cases three (3) days in a row, all in different school systems. “Grooming” may be a new concept to you. It involves predators, in these cases predators of children, who identify children, or groups of children, and seek to gain their trust for illicit purposes. They break down the child’s defenses, build an emotional connection, and ultimately engage in sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of the child. The predators target children they believe are vulnerable, such as children with cognitive disabilities, children who lack confidence, such as children with learning disabilities, children who feel bullied, children with dysfunctional families, and children from needy families. The grooming may take many forms. This week’s cases involved predators who gave kisses on the top of the head, kisses on the forehead, who hugged, who were always touching, who had a drawer filled with sanitary products for girls, and who took photos of girls. The hugging was in full view of others. Sometimes the predator adopts child-like characteristics attractive to children, like wearing young people’s clothes (pajamas or torn jeans), engages the children in conversations about their dating lives, describes his own dating experiences, or offers to drive children places as the parents are not available to drive. The predator may take a child out to eat as the family cannot afford meals in restaurants. The predator may visit the child in her home, right under her parent’s nose. The predator will often arrange to be alone with the child, perhaps after school in a band room, or at dusk in the school field. And the list goes on. The predator may excuse his conduct saying, “in my culture we hug,” or “the children look at me like a grandfather.”

You can still hug a child who is crying. You can hug a child as she crosses the stage at graduation. You can give a high-five in class when someone has done something absolutely amazing. But the harm caused by predators is incalculable, forever, and the epitome of evil. If you come across someone who is engaging in conduct that you think might be grooming conduct, report it. Do not let it slide by. It may take your report and the report of another person to identify the groomer. Make your concerns known to DSS, your supervisor, and Student Services.

If you have an uneasy feeling about something, chances are you have reason to feel uneasy.

Rochelle’s Special Education Tips (“Tips”) are designed to be helpful and thought provoking, but should not be considered legal advice as they may not be accurate for use in all situations. Tips are based on my opinions and positions in accordance with federal and Maryland law and my over 35 years of experience in the special education legal field. – Rochelle S. Eisenberg, Esquire

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