Unintentional LessonsPunishing Kids for Disclosing Abuse
By Lala Fogarty
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Four young girls complained recently about what they felt was inappropriate touching from their basketball coach. Their school’s response? Kicking them off the basketball team. No, really this actually happened last week in Louisiana! What are we teaching our children when we punish them for disclosing abuse? We teach them that keeping secrets is sometimes the answer. We teach them that their voice doesn’t matter. We teach them that the bigger, more powerful person wins. We teach them to keep silent. We teach them not to trust their instincts. Is that really what we are hoping to teach? Hopefully not, but this incident in Louisiana seems to indicate we have a long way to go in reaching our kids to stand up and speak out when we punish them for doing exactly that.
Four girls recently expressed concerns over the “touchy feely” nature of their basketball coach. Those concerns were ignored and the girls were told by their school’s principal, that they weren’t allowed to ask questions, according to the New Orleans Advocate.
“I felt uncomfortable around him on and off the court because he was very feely. Hand on the shoulders and other places and stuff,” Sibley said. “It made me feel uncomfortable. I never had a touchy-feely coach before. I felt uncomfortable.”
A coach makes his players uncomfortable and the players bring this to the attention of school administrators and these children are told to keep quiet. After their complaints were ignored by the school’s administration, the girls protested by sitting out of last Tuesday’s game and were subsequently kicked off the team. Dangerous lessons abound here.
The good news is that the girls’ parents support their decision to protest the game, and these parents are working to resolve the issues.
“They didn’t play because we wanted to get the principal and coach to the table to talk about the issues we have,” said Myles Cooper, a parent of one of the players. “This is not a witch hunt against the coach. We want the best for our kids, and we want our kids safe.”
Perhaps that is the bigger lesson for all of us – support your children and trust their instincts. These parents likely cannot change or control the outcome of the basketball situation, but what a wonderful way to ensure a positive outcome in the futures of their children. That’s a lesson we can and should support – this fabulous example of parents who listen, believe, and react responsibly.