A student is showing photos to other students. You look over her shoulder and see that, in the photos, she is posing provocatively in her underwear. You ask if her friends took the pictures, and she says, “Oh, no, my uncle took the pictures when I was at his house. He says that I look like a model. He wants me to practice. He takes pictures of me like this all the time!”

A middle school student seems unusually tired for several days. You ask him if he’s feeling OK. He says his parents have left him at home alone while they’re away on a week’s vacation. He admits that he’s probably not eating right because he’s not a very good cook.

Child abuse and neglect cut across all socioeconomic classes and ethnic/racial groups. Teachers are often the first adults to notice. So, understanding your responsibilities in these situations is an essential part of being a professional educator.

What is abuse?

Abuse and neglect generally fall into four categories:

    Physical abuse is intentional physical injury. Physical discipline is not considered abuse if it’s reasonable and doesn’t injure the child. Sexual abuse includes actual physical sexual actions, allowing another to engage in sexual conduct with a child, or making sexual images of a child. Emotional or psychological abuse is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-esteem. Sometimes, emotional abuse is more like neglect when a caretaker withholds attention, support, or guidance. Neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to provide for a child’s basic needs by withholding food, medical care, education, or doesn’t provide appropriate care and supervision. A family’s cultural values, religious beliefs, standards of care in the community,
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