Best Practices for Preventing Sexual Abuse in Schools- Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Best Practices for Preventing Sexual Abuse in Schools

We entrust our schools with the safety and well-being of our children. It's a mission that schools and educators take very seriously. But even with increased awareness, sexual abuse in schools is still a pervasive issue. In fact, 1 in 10 children will experience sexual abuse by the time they are 18. The numbers are even more staggering when considering fewer than 10% of sexual abusers will ever get caught, and even fewer will face charges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 91% of child sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by someone the child knows and trusts. The abusers may be from schools, clubs, religious organizations, or even families.

Unfortunately, there is no single process, method, or procedure that can prevent child sexual abuse in schools. Best practices include a variety of tools, such as documentation requirements, specific processes, specialized training, and background checks, which all can be overwhelming for a school of any size.

Together, We Can Make an Impact

At Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), we know what it takes to make a positive impact and help prevent child sexual abuse in schools. Protecting children is our #1 goal.

Here are some of the best practices recommended to help keep children safe in schools.

  • Leadership Buy-In: School leadership must clearly demonstrate a commitment to protecting children from sexual abuse.
  • Documentation of Policies and Procedures: Documentation must include a prohibitive position statement, clear instructions on how to report suspected abuse, and detailed guidance on "grooming," a process used by perpetrators to gain trust from both the child and other adults.
  • Documented Employee and Volunteer Training: This training should be provided to anyone working with children and reviewed regularly.
  • Specific Training for Hiring Managers: Anyone who hires employees or volunteers should also receive training on elements placed in the hiring process to weed out possible abusers.
  • Criminal Background Checks: Background checks should not be the only part of a child sexual abuse prevention program, but they are still an important component.

How to Identify Sexual Abuse

It can be difficult to detect abuse. Part of the challenge is that behaviors thought to be signs of sexual abuse can also be general signs of stress in children. It takes training, experience, and support. Fortunately, PHLY works in partnership with Abuse Prevention Systems and MinistrySafe to offer ongoing training and support for our organizations and schools to continue to detect and prevent child sexual abuse.

There are a few things that organizations should do and keep in mind when selecting or implementing an abuse prevention program:

  • Learn how to spot child sexual grooming - child grooming is befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child. The goal is to gain the child's trust, which ultimately helps enable sexual abuse. Most don't realize that grooming also extends to the other adults surrounding the child. Gaining access to a child is made easier if adults are comfortable and therefore have their guards lowered. For more information on grooming and what to look for, click here.
  • Implement specific sexual abuse prevention protocols for staff to follow when interacting with students.
  • Background checks and screenings should be part of every hiring process, but should never be the only part of an abuse prevention program. Background checks only detect abusers who have been caught and convicted. Unfortunately, that number represents less than 10% of the total number of sexual abusers.
  • Be aware that child sexual abuse not only occurs between an adult and a child, but can also occur between a child and another child, known as peer-to-peer sexual abuse.
  • Keep an eye on the children. Cameras can provide a convenient status update but shouldn't be used solely to watch the kids.
  • Classrooms need to be designed with total visibility in mind. Kids shouldn't be able to hide behind furniture or toys.
  • Know the warning signs of abuse. According to Abuse Prevention Systems (APS), "At the core of an effective child safety system is this reality: what we BELIEVE shapes what we DO. Prevention starts with awareness." Learn more about how to identify sexual abuse by following the five-part safety system, which includes: awareness training, skillful screening, policies & procedures, background checks, and monitoring & oversight. An effective child safety systems requires all five parts.

Abuse Prevention Starts at the Child's Home

Another important aspect of abuse prevention actually occurs outside of the classroom. Parents and caregivers are the ultimate protectors of their children, so it's important these efforts start at the child's home. But even parents and caregivers need tools and information to understand the risk. "The whole purpose is to equip parents with better information, including questions they should be asking in the programs or activities where their child spends time," says Kimberlee Norris, co-founder of APS and MinistrySafe. Schools should consider providing parents and caregivers with this training, covering the following from their perspective:

  • Common misconceptions about sexual abuse and abusers
  • Abuser characteristics
  • The abuser's grooming process and common grooming behaviors

Learn More

To learn more about preventing sexual abuse in schools, visit the Abuse Prevention Systems (APS) or MinistrySafe websites, which are both complimentary resources for PHLY policyholders with sexual abuse and molestation insurance coverage.

Abuse Prevention Systems (APS)

Created to serve a full spectrum of child-serving organizations, including youth sports, daycare centers, schools, clubs, and other nonprofits. Learn more:


Created to meet the unique needs of faith-based organizations, including churches, camps, schools, mission organizations, and other ministry programming. Learn more:

Both programs offer a five-part safety system that includes checks and balances to monitor supervision, training compliance, and system accountability through a convenient online control panel, and all are available to PHLY policyholders with sexual abuse and molestation coverage at no additional cost. Visit the above websites for more information or contact

Some Additional Child Sexual Abuse Resources:

To learn more about preventing child sexual abuse, please visit our previous blog posts:

Preventing Child Sexual Abuse

Learn more about our elementary and secondary school coverage options:

School Liability Insurance Makes the Grade - Philadelphia Insurance Companies

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