Flex Academies President Joshua Chernikoff interviewed Francey Hakes, CEO of Francey Hakes Consulting. Hakes spoke to us about the importance of staff recognizing signs of sexual predators and keeping our children safe. We are lucky to have Hakes as a partner to provide her knowledge in this very important field.
Flex Academies: Can you kind of validate a little or elaborate on this idea: Do you think that schools will spend a lot of time thinking about the 9-3, but also have conversations about the 3-4 and the 3-5 hours in terms of the safety of the kids?
Francy Hakes: Absolutely. I mean schools certainly think about what they are doing to teach kids and prepare them for life during those normal school hours, sort of in those strict education blocks. But it seems to me that they don’t really think about, especially things like child safety and protection in the after-hours, when students are still on school properties and schools are still liable for things that could happen there. I think they think their work day is, in effect, done and it’s really not.
FA: The afterschool program is generally a collaboration between the PTA and the principal. So if you had a PTA president and a principal sitting in front of you, what are some quick ideas and guidelines you might provide them?
FH: Well, I’d want to know whether or not they are training their school personnel both during school and especially after school to recognize the signs of grooming. So do they know what those signs look like? Do they know that there is a difference, for example, between preferential and situational sex offenders? Are they aware that 30% of students, and that’s even starting in middle school, admit that they have engaged in sexting behavior, that is sending illicit or illegal images of themselves to other students? Are they aware that grooming is a constellation of behaviors and that there are some children that are more vulnerable than others to becoming victims of a sexual predator? Those are some of the things I would ask them whether or not they already have a regime in place to understand those things, to train their personnel on them so they can more fully protect children properly.
FA: In your opinion and experience, what is the general opinion when you have these conversations?
FH: Well, the reaction I guarantee you, for anyone when we said the words “sexual predator,” “situational offender,” “sexting” or “grooming” — they all got very uncomfortable. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to believe it happens, but I see that every day, all over the world, children are being sexually exploited by school staff, school personnel and of course a lot of other people but it’s a shocking problem that I think people would rather close their eyes to, because it’s uncomfortable and it’s hard.
FA: So if you have the conversation and people get over the shock of what you are saying, what are some of the resources they can turn to, to be aware and be smart?
FH: You know, it’s one of the most difficult problems that I hear about from schools that I talk to around the world, and that is there is no one place. “We had a hard time finding you,” they tell me. I went to a school in Central America recently; they had an allegation of misconduct and were unhappy with law enforcement’s reaction. They asked me to come down and assess the danger to their students, and one of the things they said was, “We tried to find a single place that we could go for resources on things like grooming, which children might be vulnerable, safety tips and red flags.” There really isn’t one place. So I think that is the hardest thing — that there isn’t one place. There are all kinds of child advocacy groups but they are all different and they are all distinct, so I think it’s hard to find that one resource. Frankly that one resource doesn’t really exist unless you come to a person like me that sort of has that training and background understanding of how things work, and contacts in the law enforcement community that can bring in people to do that training.
FA: A perfect segue: How do schools get in touch with you if they have these questions or God forbid, run into something and might need your help?
FH: Well, of course they can contact me. I blog at @Franceyhakes.wordpress.com and all of my gmail and all contact information is there. I am more than happy to talk to anyone at any time and further advise them. Either come and do training myself if that’s what they want, or help them get in touch with some local, federal, state officials that might be able to help them.
FA: Thank you very much for all of your information and all you are doing. We really appreciate it.
FH: I’m happy to do it. I like to do my part to help keep all kids safe.
To watch this interview, please visit our Video On Demand site.