Monday's professional day for Woodward Public School teachers and staff wasn't just fun and games.
The faculty members also learned about the identifying signs of possible child abuse from Barbara Bonner, Ph.D., associate director of the Child Center in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
One of the most common types of child abuse is physical abuse, Bonner said.
“Physical child abuse is any non-accidental injury to a child under the age of 18-years-old by a parent or caretaker,” she said.
She said physical abuse may include beatings, shaking, burns, human bites, strangulation, immersion in scolding water. This abuse can lead to injuries including bruises and welts, broken bones, scars, retinal hemorrhage or internal injuries.
Bonner said she has seen several child abuse cases involving burns on the children.
“I have seen children come in with the shape of an iron on their back where the parent stuck a hot iron on it because the child misbehaved,” she said.
Another case involved a girl with burn marks up and down her arm where the mother stuck a hot curling iron on the girl as punishment, she said.
Bonner said a number of household items can be used to abuse a child with including a belt buckle and belt, a cord, stick/whip, fly swatter, coat hanger, paddles and hair brushes.
“If you see any type of those marks on a child it’s a good indication they have been abused,” she said.
Bonner said the high suspicion areas on a child for abuse include the ears, chest, stomach and back of the legs since those are not areas that are typically injured accidentally.
“Any type of cut, bruising or burn on those areas may indicate the child is being abused,” Bonner said, noting “The most common accidental bruising normally takes place on the arms and front of the legs."
Bonner said physical abuse should be considered when the history of the injury given by the parent does not match the injury, the child gives unbelievable explanation for the injuries, the child reports injury caused by the parent, the child is fearful to go home or requests to stay at school, daycare or hospital later.
Another common case of child abuse is sexual abuse, Bonner said.
“Child sexual abuse is the exploitation of a child or adolescent for the sexual gratification of another person,” Bonner said.
Sexually abusive behaviors include voyeurism, fondling, child prostitution or child pornography, she said.
She said sexual abuse should be considered when young adolescents are pregnant or when a child reports inappropriate sexual behavior.
Bonner also discussed the psychological maltreatment of children including psychological neglect and psychological abuse.
Psychological neglect is the consistent failure of a parent or care taker to provide a child with appropriate support, attention and affection, she said, noting psychological abuse is a chronic pattern of behaviors such as belittling, humiliating and ridiculing a child.
Psychological abuse should be considered when there is a lack of attachment between an infant and parent, a lack of responsiveness to the environment, a failure to thrive, or when a parent is highly critical and negative toward the child, Bonner said.
She said neglect should be considered when the child is significantly below height/weight for age, inappropriate clothing for weather, lack of safe sanitary shelter, lack of medical and dental care. Other signs of neglect include if a child reports no caretaker in the home, when there is an untreated illness or injury, poor hygiene and child abandonment.
Teachers or community members who think a child is being abused should call the Oklahoma adult/child abuse hotline at 1-(800) 522-3511.
Teachers are also required to report suspected child abuse or neglect to the Department of Human Services office in their county to request a DHS investigation.