CPS presents new abuse prevention curriculum to parents

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Public Schools has taught abuse prevention to its elementary school students since the 1980's, but this year, CPS is using a "new and updated curriculum."

The CPS Elementary School Counseling Team presented materials from the Second Step Child Protection Unit curriculum to parents of elementary students Wednesday.

According to CPS Director of Elementary School Counseling Susan Perkins, the new curriculum is more research and evidence based than previous educational programs.

The unit is made up of six weeks of lessons such as always asking first and the three R's (recognize, report, refuse).

While the curriculum teaches students about all kinds of abuse prevention, part of it focuses on sexual abuse specifically.

"The sexual abuse prevention would be to equip them with the skills to be able to protect them in cases where they are receiving unwanted or unsafe touching," Perkins said. 

According to Perkins, the concepts taught in the curriculum and the methods of teaching them will be different based on grade.

"It varies due to the developmental level," Perkins said. "Each grade is geared towards the development age of the children in the grade."

The biggest thing parents can gain from abuse prevention training, according to Perkins, is the conversation that abuse prevention starts at home.

"The more the children hear the parents talking about it, the more comfortable they will be coming forward to share if there is something happening that is causing a child's safety to be in jeopardy," Perkins said.

One parent who attended the event agreed.

"I think it's critical that it happens at home. and at our house it's been happening all along," Nikole Cronk said. "It's really nice to have that continuity across different environments. I think that's so important for kids."

However, while a different parent agreed that conversations should happen at home, he said they should be kept there.

"I think that it should be left up more to the parents to teach a lot of these things, and may be reinforced rather than just put out there the way it is," Robert Delvalle said.

As someone who attended more than one of the presentations, Delvalle had other concerns with the numbers presented in them.

"The stats weren't accurate in either one, they were different in each one, so there were a few questions about that," Delvalle said. "In one they said it was one in six children, another one they said one in 20."

Teachers at CPS elementary schools will teach the Second Step Child Protection Unit over most of February and March.