Expert Advice

Sexual Misconduct at Camp

Family Safety Expert Advice from Gavin de Becker

Q
The camp I chose for my four-year-old son had a great reputation. However, last summer a counselor was accused of sexual misconduct with a first-grader. The matter is pending in court now. The camp has not changed any policies and they stand by their reputation. Should I be concerned? Is one bad apple a good enough reason not to send my son to this camp?
A
The issue is not that the camp had one bad apple, but rather how they handled the situation. Did they conduct an internal investigation? Did they tell parents about the incident? Have they fully disclosed what their own internal investigation concluded? Did they learn anything from the incident? Had they conducted a pre-employment background investigation on the counselor? Had they ignored signals that they should have reacted to? Forget about the camp's ''reputation.''

The camp's ''reputation'' with me is not at all good, given just what you've told me, but reputation is an ever-changing concept that cannot help inform your decision. It is time to get to the real issues. If at the end of your extensive inquiry you believe that they put child safety first, that they take effective steps to employ decent, capable, honorable people, that they do all they can to provide a safe environment, then you'll feel comfortable sending your son there. If you feel otherwise, you won't feel comfortable sending your son there.

Gavin de Becker is widely regarded as the leading U.S. expert on the prediction and management of violence. His work has earned him three Presidential appointments and a position on a congressional committee. He is currently co-chair of the Domestic Violence Council Advisory Board, and a Senior Fellow at the UCLA School of Public Policy.

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