Janesville61.9°

Parenting class helps shed light on child abuse

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GINA R. HEINE
May 5, 2012
— Babies don't come with an owner's manual.

That's why one Parkview High School teacher and her students are trying to educate students and the community about parenting to prevent child abuse.


"I feel like parenting education is one way we can get the word out and help kids know that when you bring that little one home, you don't get a manual with it like you do with your car," teacher Glenda McCracken said.


She started a parenting education class as an elective this school year, and she and the four students in this semester's course say it should be mandatory.


McCracken and senior Amber Tyler-Kassner gave a presentation to the Parkview School Board recently and requested that the parenting education class be a graduation requirement.


"I believe that not just a parent raises a child, but a community does," Tyler-Kassner said. "Hopefully, we can just make a safer community for children, and more people will want to come into our community because it's so safe and we have such a good school environment."


She plans to attend the early childhood education program at Blackhawk Technical College this summer.


Last year in Wisconsin, 2,618 cases of child sexual abuse were reported along with 1,553 physical abuse cases, 435 neglect cases, 219 cases of witness to violence, 88 drug endangerment cases and 81 other cases, according to the National Children's Alliance.


Nearly five children die every day in the United States from abuse and neglect, the alliance reported.


For students coping with serious issues such as child abuse, the school district needs a social worker in addition to counselors, McCracken and Tyler-Kassner told the school board.


"Child abuse is happening, and we need to stop it," McCracken said. "This generation is the one that will have to stop the generational curse, is what we call it."


People can't be in the dark, she said, which is why she's shared her story of abuse with students, the community and church groups.


When a speaker from the YWCA CARE House in Janesville told the first-semester class about handprints on a wall at the child advocacy center that represent the kids helped there, a girl in class said her hand was on the wall for sexual abuse.


After class, McCracken said, another student said her handprint was on the wall, too.


McCracken told the school board her handprint probably wouldn't have been on such a wall because she wasn't able to get help when family members abused her as a young teenager.


"I've lived with that," said McCracken, 56. "It's always there."


Being open about her abuse has eased her thoughts and stress about being a victim, and she encourages victims to come forward.


"Realize you're not the only person you meet victims everyday, and you don't know it," she said.


It bothers her to know that two of her 18 students in the first-semester class were abused.


"That makes the statistics more a reality," she said.


The class in April spread the message through the school with weeklong awareness activities. They want their peers to know that if they're being abused, they can talk to students in the class or McCracken. If residents or other school districts want to get involved, they are ready to help.


Researching abuse was one part of the parenting education class.


It makes sophomore Shay Noble want to wait before having kids.


"It sounds like a lot of work and a lot of pain," she said.


"I think regardless of whether it lets you make the decision, it still gets you thinking about it and gets you prepared for whenever it does happen," junior Ben Davisson said.


"I'll just be more protective of who I give my kids to" when the time comes, said sophomore Ciarra Heldt.


McCracken and Tyler-Kassner received a couple emails and several comments of support from audience members after their school board presentation.


Superintendent Steve Lutzke said he's eager to find ways to eliminate child abuse. Requiring the parenting class for graduation would mean a significant investment, and he said he would want to see statistics from schools with such a requirement showing a decline in abuse.


Administrators will look at course offerings in fall for the following school year and listen to McCracken's proposal, he said.



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