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IU Northwest management professor pens parents’ guide to combating sexual abuse, harassment

Charles Hobson, Ph.D., addresses serious issue of ‘Passing the Trash’ in K-12 schools

Thursday Nov 15, 2012

Around the 10-year anniversary of his first book, “The Lecherous University: What Every Student and Parent Should Know about the Epidemic of Sexual Harassment on Campus,” lead author Charles Hobson, Ph.D., decided the book’s second edition should include a chapter about the problem in K-12 schools.

But, when the Indiana University Northwest Professor of Management set out to research the topic, he said, the information he discovered was so unspeakably shocking that the topic begged a book all its own.

“Doing the background research for what I was planning to have as just a chapter,” Hobson said, “I ran into some statistics that I had never seen or heard before that were so shocking, I said, ‘Somebody has to do something about this.’”

The resulting book, “Passing the Trash: A Parent’s Guide to Combat Sexual Abuse/Harassment of Their Children in School,” published by CreatePress in the fall of 2012, educates readers about the alarming frequency of sexual abuse and harassment in K-12 education and provides advice to help parents protect their children and hold the appropriate leaders and institutions accountable.

Hobson said three studies prompted his fervor about releasing a book devoted to the problem of sexual abuse and harassment in K-12 education.

First, a 2004 report by the U.S. Department of Education estimated that nearly 4.5 million (almost 10 percent) of students will have been sexually abused or harassed by an educator sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade.

Second, Hobson learned from a 2010 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to Congress about the frequency of a silent practice happening in schools known as “passing the trash,” in which sexual offenders are encouraged to resign voluntarily in exchange for the school providing positive letters of reference and not reporting incidents to police or taking any disciplinary action.

Finally, Hobson learned from a 2001 national survey by the American Association of University Women that 81 percent of students in grades 8 through 11 had experienced sexual harassment at school and that 38 percent of the respondents said that teachers (and other school employees) sexually harass students.

Despite having his own children in the K-12 system for 25 years, Hobson said that he, like most parents, was unaware of the problem of sexual abuse/harassment in the schools and had never heard of the “unconscionable passing-the-trash practice.” Hobson has two grown children, two step-children ages 14 and 12, and a 7-year-old grandson. As a parent, Hobson said the research infuriated him so much that he had trouble sleeping at night.

“I had naively assumed that incidence rates of this problem would be low for two major reasons,” he explained. “First, given that any sexual contact between a teacher and a young student would constitute a criminal offense, I assumed such sexual misconduct would be minimal.  Second, since K-12 schools typically have close and direct control over students, I believed this would also reduce the likelihood of educator sexual misconduct.”

Once enlightened about the problem, Hobson felt compelled to pen a guide specifically aimed at parents.

Hobson asked his 7-year-old grandson to illustrate the cover of the book. He wanted to portray a child’s view of what is supposed to be a safe environment. The crayon rendering of a school and school bus has the word “danger” stamped over it to emphasize Hobson’s point.

“I wanted to convey a common, simple, innocent, upbeat image of a school, overshadowed or interrupted by an ominous signal of danger,” Hobson said.

Hobson wants parents to get riled up and take action against this problem.

To help them do that, Hobson’s book provides conversation starters and sample letters that parents can customize when talking with administrators. He outlines the rights of parents and children and provides guidance on steps to take. As a parent, he used them with his own district’s school boards while advocating for his own kids.

Hobson said the book does not “sugar coat” the problem or the culprits.

“Criminal culpability rests not only with the child sexual predators, but also with school administrators, union officials, and teachers who have enabled the abuse by failing to report it, as required by law,” Hobson said.

“I provide parents with aggressive strategies to confront school officials and teachers, in order to ensure the safety of their children. I also provide detailed information about how to file and document complaints with government agencies and law enforcement.”

Rochelle Brock, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Urban Education and Director of the Urban Teacher Education Program at IU Northwest, applauded Hobson’s effort to empower parents through knowledge and said that she intends to recommend the guide to her students.

Brock agreed that, ultimately, parents are the ones who will have to take action. Like Hobson, she had never heard the term “passing the trash” before, but she acknowledged that many teachers and administrators have a tendency to “bury their heads in the sand,” not only about sexual harassment and abuse, but also other social problems such as suicide and bullying about sexual preferences.

“Passing the Trash: A Parent’s Guide to Combat Sexual Abuse/Harassment of Their Children in School,” is available at Amazon.com both in hard copy and in a Kindle version.

Hobson holds a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology. He has served as an expert witness in 39 court cases involving workplace and educational sexual abuse and harassment. Hobson has offered training and consultation services to organizations wishing to prevent and correct any abuse or harassment, and he has spent his 31-year-career at IU Northwest as an outspoken advocate for student rights.