Update on Child Protection in International Schools

Keith Cincotta, Director of School Services and Senior Liaison overseeing ISS work in Child Protection with the International Task Force on Child Protection

With foresight and significant investment, this collective effort is creating positive, sustainable change in schools – truly achieving cultures of child protection – based on and leveraging the shared wisdom and experience of the group.

A few years ago, the international school community was rocked with a number of high profile incidences of child abuse, which left educational leaders needing and wanting to solve this problem and support each other. There have been numerous resources published for schools generally, and many countries have set strict laws and policies about handling suspected or witnessed abuse of students. However, there was a gap in the resources and support offered to international school communities, who are often operating in cultures with laws and practices around safeguarding children that differ from their home country. Additionally, recruiting organizations who serve international schools had different and sometimes insufficient practices for screening candidates.

Since its inception in 2013, ISS has been a founding and active member of the International Task Force on Child Protection (ITFCP) in international schools, led by Jane Larsson and CIS. That task force, comprised of experts in child protection, senior leaders in schools, law enforcement agencies, recruiting company representatives and members of school accreditation bodies, came together to build a shared understanding of the problem, a vision for sharing and adapting global best practices, and developing structured action plans. Maybe most importantly, the world-renowned organization the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) worked with the task force to host an online Education Portal providing open source resources and tools for educators worldwide.

We are very proud to have been involved in such an amazing effort that has truly begun to change child protection practices and school culture around the world. With foresight and significant investment, this collective effort is creating positive, sustainable change in schools – truly achieving cultures of child protection – based on and leveraging the shared wisdom and experience of the group.

Senior ISS leaders Laura Light (Director of Global Recruitment) and Dr. Paul DeMinico (retired Vice President Administrative Searches) helped lead the task force’s committee on enhancing recruiting practices. All of ISS managed schools are required to address child protection in holistic ways, and encouraged to share learning and resources as improved practices are implemented. Some ISS schools have participated in presenting their child protection journeys at global conferences, and we have senior staff dedicated to helping ensure we continue to strive for and meet best practices.

We are pleased to share the following information, sent from ICMEC, who have recently published updates on this effort and the portal. Specifically, they would like you to:

•   Share examples of effective practice with them.
•   Continue to keep child protection topics on the front burner in interactions with your staff.
•   Provide virtual introductions and share the link EdPortal.ICMEC.org
•   Highlight new resources on social media feeds or request blog posts from them addressing child protection topics.
•   Let them know about your needs and those of your client community.

Updates From International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children

The new school year is underway and the ICMEC Education Portal has new tools and resources to share.

New to Portal

Visit ICMEC Education Portal: EdPortal.ICMEC.org

New Resources and Initiatives

  • Mandatory Reporter Info Sheet
    A one page graphic highlights key knowledge about preventing and responding to abuse for mandatory reporters and anyone in a child-serving role. This condensed reminder of facts, signs, and recommended actions may be used as a conversation starter, a reference for those who have completed training, or a prompt for reflection. The digital form links to further information.
  • Boarding School Inspection Guidance
    A great deal of information is available online about choosing a boarding school, but there is no guidance on evaluating the safety of a boarding school. This document was requested by one of our governmental partners and outlines the policies that should be in place and how to evaluate their effectiveness.
  • Your Child Protection Training Plan
    This info sheet can be provided as a one page guide to schools or organizations meeting the new standards for child protection. The process is divided into three phases comprised of action items, training topics and ongoing tasks. 
  • Characteristics of an Effective Abuse Prevention Curriculum
    The portal provides tools and tips for schools creating an abuse prevention curriculum for students. This document combines and condenses a meta-analysis of research informed elements present in effective prevention programs with the guidance of CEOP, PSHE Association, WHO, CDC and UNESCO.

Terminology and Trends to Report

  • There is less emphasis on differentiating virtual and face-to-face interactions and relationships. The term 'real' world is pejorative and is replaced with 'face-to-face'.
  • There is increased emphasis on identifying contexts of peer-on-peer abuse, including high risk situations and environments, both physical and virtual.
  • Leading schools favor a transparent approach to child protection, such as publicizing whistleblowing protections online or requiring acknowledgement of protection policies prior to admission and visitor entry.

What are we doing?

We are informing our work by collaborating with content experts in law enforcement (on reporting barriers), academia (on school culture and peer-on-peer abuse), child advocacy (on multi-disciplinary responses and trauma-informed community outreach), industry (on capturing nuance in digital security and online training), and the non-profit world (on incorporating student voice, ensuring resources reflect research and community service aligns with principles of protection for all children).

We are asking educators what they need, how they overcome challenges and what healing and effective practice looks like for them. You can reach out to us at EdPortal@icmec.org.

Thank you for your support. You make our schools safer every day.

Visit ICMEC Education Portal:

Need More Information?

Contact: Laurie Tasharski, M.Ed., Education Liaison, International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children •  EdPortal@icmec.org   •   +1 (571)302-8912