Teachers looking for signs of abuse among in-person, virtual students

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — School is back in session, and some students are beginning to report abuse — something they may not have been able to do when they spent months at home.

“Every year when school starts back up, we see an increase in numbers because more children are around mandated reporters who can make reports,” Kari Viola-Brooke, the executive director of Child Enrichment Inc., says.

This unusual school year appears to be making this situation more complicated.

“For the kids who are learning from home and may be in an unsafe situation, they may not have an outlet where they can get out of that situation and tell a trusted adult,” Viola-Brooke says.

Columbia, Richmond and Aiken County schools all have counselors and social workers on hand ready to step in.

“We recognize that many of our children look at our schools as safe havens and a place they can come and know the adults in the building can take care of them,” Michele Sherman, an assistant superintendent of the Columbia County School District, says.

If students aren’t in the building, they can still receive help.

“We teach them [teachers] some signs to look for,” Sherman says. “They’re still looking for those signs even in a virtual environment.”

Once an abuse report is made, non-profits organizations, such as Child Enrichment Inc., work with children and families for as long as they need.

“We want kids to know there are people who will believe them, trust them and take steps to protect them,” Viola-Brooke explains.

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