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Unhealthy relationships at school: Reduce the risk for your kids

After a woman posted a YouTube video on Jan. 17 alleging that a former Alhambra High School administrator sexually abused her when she was a student at another school, many parents of Alhambra Unified School District students expressed shock and concern.

AHS Parent-Teacher Association president and AUSD school board member Adele Andrade-Stadler asked herself what she could do as a parent to help prevent a similar situation from happening again. "I think what’s important to take away from this incident is that, as parents, we should reinforce how important open communication is with our kids," Andrade-Stadler said.

Dr. Laurel Bear agrees. Bear has worked at AUSD for more than 32 years, starting as a teacher at San Gabriel High School and moving on to dean of students at AHS, principal of Century High School, and now director of AUSD Student Services and Gateway to Success, a mental health and student safety program at the district. Bear shared with us what parents can do to help reduce the risks of their children falling victim to an unhealthy or abusive relationship, including encouraging open and honest communication, checking in on children's activities and whereabouts, and getting to know the adults in their children's lives. 

Parents should know the “who, what, when, where, and why” of their children’s activities, even if they say they are going to a school event, according to Bear. “We want to trust the school-sponsored activity," Bear said. "What the child says they are doing may not represent what the child may actually be doing,” Bear said, adding that parents should inquire with school officials, teachers, and advisors to confirm details.

For social activities, parents should not only ensure that an adult will be present and request his or her phone number, they should also get to know all parents and adults supervising their children. “It could be at a park, it could be at a friend’s home, it could be at a sleepover,” Bear said. “Kids should not be with individuals that the parents have not interacted with.”

Parents should be wary of activities or relationships that their children do not want to share with them. “Whatever the reason, if your child does not want you involved, they're either unhealthy relationships or they're relationships that the parents would not approve,” she said.

Bear recommends parents plug in to Gateway to Success’s free, quarterly Parent University class, during which school officials discuss recent education trends and give parents resources to improve their children's academic success. Officials will discuss bullying and unhealthy relationships during the next class on Feb. 6 from 6-8 p.m. at AHS.

The district is also holding workshops at the high school to teach students signs of unhealthy relationships. Although the class was already scheduled for this semester and not a result of last week’s incident, Bear said it will focus on healthy and appropriate relationships with peers, adults, and other students, as well as finding trustworthy adults to talk to if students feel uncomfortable.

“We talk a lot about that with our young kids," Bear said, "and often we forget to continue that conversation with kids as they get older."

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