Time to talk about sexual abuse dangers

The following was sent to Superintendent Kendra Johnson by the author, who asked that we include in Montclair Local’s Letters to the Editor:

Hi there Superintendent Kendra Johnson, since you commented to the Montclair Local I am aware that you have now learned that the suspected luring (“Police urge caution,” page 11, Jan. 10) was a misunderstanding. I was glad to hear this, and I am sure that all of the parents in the district that heard about the incident from your message will be glad to get an update from you as well. We all want to keep our children safe from sexual abuse and assault.

One of the unfortunate realities of our culture is that we are very reactive to the very rare real and suspected incidents like this, but we are much less comfortable in talking about and actively working to prevent the type of sexual abuse that actually happens on a regular basis; child sexual abuse by someone who is known and trusted. Research indicates that one in three girls and between one in five and one in 10 boys will be sexually abused, and that the vast majority will be abused by a family member or trusted adult (more than 80 percent) and a majority (more than 90 percent) will never tell anyone.

As a psychotherapist with expertise in treating sexually abused children for over 20 years, I wanted to share this resource with you that you may decide to share with staff and parents regarding the real dangers of sexual abuse. After providing parent and community education on prevention of child sexual abuse for years, I was thrilled to see them develop materials and online information on prevention that is accurate and accessible. There are many valuable resources on the website d2l.org for adults who want to learn about how to reduce the risk of sexual abuse of children.

Finally, I hope that this experience can be a reminder to district leadership that we need to do a much better job at administering and delivering the health curriculum. My own child is in seventh grade. She has had eight years in district schools and had only just begun to have real health instruction in school about sexuality. This week they began to discuss male and female reproduction. My daughter will be 13 next month. The sexual abuse portion of the curriculum, I believe, should have happened in the earlier grades and it never happened throughout her experience at Watchung, Hillside and Glenfield Schools.

Thankfully, for my child, I have the knowledge and resources and have educated her well on the topic. However, her peers may not be so lucky. When so many children are experiencing sexual abuse, and when state standards require that these topics be taught, we have a responsibility to do so.

Please feel free to reach out to me if there is any way I can be helpful to you, our schools, or other parents.




Thanks for the insight

The Town Square in the Montclair Local’s Jan. 10 issue, “What everyone must know about Lackawanna” is a thoughtful, informative and powerful indictment of the current developer’s scheme to maximize their monetary return while further, if not definitively, destroying that which remains of downtown Montclair’s historically significant architectural fabric.

Irreparable damage and distortion of the townscape has already been done with demolition and replacement of Hahne’s department store, the indefensibly poor massing and detailing of the new hotel, and the seemingly overblown plan for an arts and performance center at the Seymour Street site.

All of these projects share the same insensitive scale and monotonous detailing and use of materials favored by developers and could be confounded with any lackluster, anonymous commercial project along our highways.

Not only should we prevent yet another large area of our town becoming an architectural mediocrity; but in the case of the train station and platforms, we have an obligation as stewards of our cultural past to protect, and perpetuate where and when we can, our distinctive, local architectural patrimony.

The variances requested alone are enough to deny this project.
The senseless harm it would do to our collective built environment should be reason enough to disqualify.

“Back to the drawing board...”




Teacher’s support is astounding

I was stunned Monday evening Jan. 7 while attending my 9-year-old grandson Gavin’s wrestling match which was sponsored here in Montclair. At the end of Gavin’s match I was approached by his fourth grade teacher, Ms. Pamela Gerdes, who had attended the match to support Gavin. She greeted me and congratulated Gavin for a job well done.

The next morning as I thought about the previous evening I was amazed at the altruism and the above and beyond effort by Ms. Gerdes. Here was a teacher with a full time career and a family of he own showing up at one of her student’s extracurricular activities.
As I pondered this more deeply, I could not help but imagine how this teacher must conduct her classroom each and every day and her dedication to the development of her students. I am thrilled to have Ms. Gerdes as Gavin’s teacher.

I grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. and attended Brockport and Montclair State while I wrestled for many years.

My two grown sons went through the Montclair school system. Recently, I have considered relocating to Arizona in retirement but now find myself wanting to stay in this community as I have come to realize the value of the Montclair school system to our youth.

I would like to publicly applaud Ms. Gerdes and say thank you for the sincere devotion she brings to her students and the entire community.