Prince George’s Co. parents get lesson in spotting child abuse

June 20, 2024 | Stopping child abuse by educating parents (WTOP's Mike Murillo reports)

GLENARDEN, Md. — In a Prince George’s County elementary school classroom, it was the parents’ turn to learn Monday night with a lesson in how to spot and report child abuse and neglect.

The special class took place at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School, where a teacher’s aide was arrested and charged with sexually abusing several students in February.

“We really understood that we needed to talk with parents who were just as impacted and afraid and concerned because they just didn’t know what to look for, and they didn’t know what the steps were if they wanted to report it,” said Dr. Sheila Jackson, director of family and community engagement at Prince George’s County Public Schools.

Jackson led the class, which is part of what is called the schools system’s Family Institute. The hope for the program is that parents become aware of the signs of child abuse and look for them not only with their own children, but also their children’s friends.

She said in addition to obvious physical signs of abuse like bruises, it’s emotional signs like mood changes that may point to trouble in a child’s life. Behavior changes around other adults, according to Jackson, and an unwillingness to go to school should also catch a parent’s attention.

“We talk to parents about the importance about making sure their children understand that there should be no adult who says to you ‘this is our secret,’” said Jackson.

Parents were also offered a chance to sign up for background checks during the class so they could, in turn, volunteer at their children’s schools.

“We all needed to have this information, because this stuff, as they say, is out there and until it hits home, you never know,” said attendee Sharon Devonish-Prince, who has a daughter in the first grade at the school.

Carl Johnson of Bowie, Maryland, has a son who is also in the first grade at the school. Johnson said while what happened at the school was scary, he commends the school and school system for keeping parents informed of the situation.

“Unfortunately, you can’t capture every bad apple; things do happen within the world, but sometimes it’s about how you react to them and what you do to put in place so that it doesn’t happen again, and I think they’ve done a pretty good job,” Johnson said.

Parents left with information they could use if they suspect any child they encounter is being abused.

“It’s not about playing police on anybody; it’s about what are the steps to take to make sure the children are safe,” Jackson said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up