I once interned at a nonprofit organization that ran after-school programs for children who came from families of modest means. It was a very good organization that served children in Kindergarten through 5th grade right at their school. We prided ourselves on providing educational activities that taught the children useful life skills. We didn’t just throw crayons at the kids and then ignore them until their parents came to pick them up.
The entire time I worked there, the staff drummed it into me that the safety of the children was the most important thing to consider. They said that if I saw a child in danger I should take action right away and alert the site manager.
One day I noticed there was this older kid who kept hanging around our playground. He was about 14 or so and he just stayed on the side of the play area, checking his phone and occasionally scanning the area with his eyes. Then he would apparently text something on his phone. I got really nervous and thought about calling the police, but then the bell rang and the kids all ran inside to get their coats. The next time I looked, this older kid was gone.
When I went to work a few days later, I saw the kid again. He was doing the same thing. Watching and texting. I looked around and didn’t see the site manager anywhere. He kept hanging around and I got really worried that he was planning to snatch one of the kids. I thought he was texting an accomplice. I had seen him do this on two different occasions at this point, so it didn’t seem like he was there for any positive purpose. I called the police and also called the executive director (ED) of the program at the headquarters office, to tell her what was going on.
Well, the police came and grabbed the kid. He was black and they were pretty rough with him. They threw him up against their car and were yelling at him, asking him what he was doing there. He kept saying, “I didn’t do anything! I didn’t do anything!”
One of the cops told me to take the children inside. Just as we got to the door of the school, the site manager, who was more or less my boss, came running out and started yelling at the police that the kid was her nephew. It turned out that he was waiting for her to give him a ride home and was hanging around until the program closed and she was ready to leave.
The site manager was not happy that I had called the police. She said I had over-reacted and that I should have asked her about the kid the first day I saw him there. But that wasn’t the biggest issue. Once she found out that I had also called the executive director, her boss, she had a real melt-down. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to have guests around our kids. I was never sure if there was a rule about that. But she definitely did not want the ED to know and she told me that she might get in trouble because I had “tattled” on her. Of course, I explained and apologized, but things were never the same between us after that. And I did feel really bad that her nephew had been treated so badly by the police.
In hindsight, I think she was right. As soon as I saw that kid the first day I should have talked with her about it. She was in charge of the site and was the appropriate person to bring any problems to (Meador, n.p.). And if the guy had been a real threat, it would have been very important to neutralize that threat as soon as possible, not wait for him to show up a second time.
In an alternate scenario, even if I had not reported the guy to the site manager on that first day, I should not have involved the police or the ED until I spoke with her. She was just in the ladies room and I could have waited to call until she had a chance to assess the situation. On the other hand, I did what I thought was right at the time, and the safety of the children may have been at risk if I had waited.
The next time I got an internship, I made sure to ask questions about emergency procedures during my orientation. That way, I knew what to do if I encountered a similar situation again.
Meador, D. (2015). Tips for effective teacher to teacher communication. Retrieved from http:// teaching.about.com/od/pd/a/Teacher-To-Teacher-Communication.htm