These past two weeks have seen the NFL receive a lot of attention for its handling of domestic and child abuse allegations. We can assume most people find a video of any man punching any woman unconscious highly disturbing. And for most parents, the idea of whipping their small child bloody and bruised, is also disturbing.
The fact is, these perpetrators are famous and/or celebrities. Bad behavior by the rich and famous makes headlines. We will pay attention to it for a bit and then move on to the next salacious headline. And the thousands of wives, girlfriends and children who are harmed physically and psychologically every day will continue to go unnoticed. As reported by NBC’s Tracy Connor, a national hotline for domestic violence has seen a surge in calls since the NFL controversy erupted. Before the scandal, the National Domestic Violence Hotline was handling about 700 calls or online chats a day at its Austin, Texas-based center. But since Sept. 8 — the day video of Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his fiancee became public — call volume has nearly doubled with 1,300 calls coming in a day. That average has remained steady over the last two weeks. Flagstaff, Arizona has seen a quadrupling of calls since the video went public.
700 calls a day is too much. 1,300 calls a day is cause for genuine alarm. That is 9,100 calls a week.
These are families and relationships where someone’s physical safety and certainly their emotional well-being is at risk. If there are children in the home, these children are experiencing a kind of trauma that will follow them to and through school, affecting their ability to learn, whether or not the abuse is leveled directly at them. It will persist into their own lives, and the likelihood that that they will either become victims or become victimizers as adults is significantly greater than if they had not experienced the trauma. No one forgets these incidences. They may successfully move beyond them, but no one ever forgets.
School should be a sanctuary. It should be a place where all the adults are committed to preparing each child for a successful life—no matter how “success” is defined. We tend to focus on “academic” success, and with all the pressure on teachers, schools and districts to meet a plethora of mandates, standards and testing results, it is a little too easy to forget about the psycho-social behaviors necessary to help each child become a person who makes better and best decisions about all their choices, understands their choices and understands that making the better choices will reward them, if not in the short term, always in the long term.
School should be a place where children learn about how to deal with frustration, anger, failure, success and appropriate interactions with other children and adults. Of course all these skills and understandings will help them become better members of their communities, but these skills are also critical in becoming successful learners.