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USA: A growing spiral of violence against children

In this country, it is no longer a surprise to hear  news stories involving children with elements  of violence, sexual abuse, mistreatment and neglect in the various divisions of the school system. The situation is becoming more and more serious.

Miguel Fernández Martínez

Despite the long history of caring for the rights and safety of minors in the United States  their leaders are not affiliated with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th November 1989.

Not even the massacre in  Columbine high school on 20th April 1999, which caused a large controversy in the United States regarding the safety of the children in schools, stops the indolence, irresponsibility and  neglect to which infants are exposed when they leave their homes.

The Columbine massacre occurred at a school in the state of Colorado, where 15 children were shot and killed and 24 were injured It was considered as the third worst school killing in North American history. This was placed after the incident in Bath school in Michigan in 1927, where 45 minors lost their lives and 58 were injured, and also the shooting in the University of Texas in 1966 which left 14 dead and 32 injured.

As a result of this  violence, , the list of dead children in the North American schools would be enormous if a chronology of all these incidents  were made.

In the country that is proclaimed as “the champion of human rights”, even the most minimal safety for children does not exist and they are exposed to an unsafe area of society, as a result of increasing violence, the indiscriminate use of fire arms, illegal drug abuse, and an explicit aggressiveness in the relationships between schoolchildren and teachers.

Many agree that the United States is the world leader of violence in schools. A federal study conducted in 2008 showed that almost 9 in every 10 public schools reported at least one violent incident and over half of them had a minimum of 20.

According to this report, emitted by the American government itself, 1,700,000 children were under death threat at any given time in the analysed academic year.

Between 2008 and 2009, 5,574 children and adolescents were reported dead as a result of the use of fire arms, a figure that exceeds even the number of military casualties in recent armed conflicts.

However, the violence goes well beyond assaults and death,  and some of it is by  the hands of the teachers themselves, who are involved in terrible incidents of physical, sexual and psychological abuse against minors.

Recently it was found that Jacob Amatuccio, a 14-year-old paraplegic child with special needs, and a pupil at Hudson Secondary School, North Carolina, was forced by his teacher to spend hours locked in a cardboard box as a way of “disciplining him”.

Laurie Bailey-Cutkomp, a teacher from the town of Zephyrhills in Florida, was accused of placing dog collars on her pupils for minor offenses such as drinking soft drinks in class; and in Los Angeles, California, a teacher at Gratts primary school was arrested due to an accusation of committing sexual  acts against a child younger than 14 years old.

Miramonte primary school is under a legal lawsuit, a result of 20 ex-pupils  claiming to be victims of sexual abuse  by 61-year-old teacher Mark Berndt. He was accused of committing alleged sexual acts against 23 pupils.

Martin Bernard Springer, a teacher at the same school, who is out on bail after paying a fee of 300,000 dollars, faces charges for inappropriately touching a female pupil.

In addition, a case that stands out is that of Arlie F. Hutchinson middle school, in the Norwalk-La Mirada School District, where the 22-year-old teacher, Taylor Welch, out on bail after paying 140,000 dollars, was accused of exchanging sexual images with a 13-year-old pupil.

In El Rancho Unified School District, in the town of Pico Rivera, southeast of Los Angeles, the school gardener, 44-year-old Jorge Álvarez, faces 10 charges of child sexual abuse against 2 girls, one 5-year-old and the other 12 years old, who he allegedly attacked in the 1990s

A case that is still fresh in our mind is that of the 18-year-old autistic youth, André McCollins, a pupil of a college for children with special needs in Rotenberg, Boston, who on 25th October 2002, refused to remove his coat, and was subjected to 7 hours of torture and humiliation by his teachers.

They went on to give him 31 electric shocks, which caused him to enter a comatose state for three days.

These cases described demonstrate a cruel reality for a First World society, where children and adolescents are in danger, and the profits and protection of weapon sellers and drug traffickers are put above the basic rights of children and minors.

It draws attention to the irony that young people in the United States must live with, that an 18 year old is prohibited from buying cigarettes and alcohol, and yet they are able to be sent off to war and in to combat by those in the Pentagon.

According to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), Cuba is an example of how a state is able protect their children’s youth, even when it is economically, commercially and financially blocked by those in a country who are not capable of caring for their own.

The Unicef document acknowledges that none of the nearly 9 million children killed annually by predictable causes are Cuban, nor do they live on the Caribbean island nor are any Cuban children part  of the 126 million minors subject to child labour in the world. (PL)

(Translated by Suzanne Elman)

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