Looking for Big Brother

Big Brothers is looking for a few good men — actually a lot of good men — to mentor fatherless boys, reports Opinion Journal. They’re asking Big Sisters to help persuade men to give their time.

In Southern California, only three men volunteer to be Big Brothers for every seven women who volunteer for Big Sisters, notes Daily Pundit. He suspects men are afraid of being accused of child abuse. He notes several stories on the reluctance of men to teach elementary students for fear of child abuse accusations. From the Arizona Republic:

…Scottsdale’s (Margaret) Serna said the fear of being accused of inappropriate touching or abuse has made lots of educators uncomfortable. Many administrators and teachers leave the profession out of fear of lawsuits or false accusations.

“A man just has to be aware of his interactions and how they are perceived,” Serna said. For example, in kindergarten there is a lot more nurturing and hugging. “You have to be careful, and when you’re a man, you have to be extra careful,” Serna said.

An accusation can be devastating. It’s hard to clear your name.

About Joanne


  1. As one of four male teachers in my elementary school (two are PE/Health teachers), I agree with this. No one ever questions the motives of a female teacher when she hugs her students; in fact, they think it’s wonderful. I’ve gotten questioning glances. Damn them all — I won’t stop showing my students I care about them!

  2. Well, J, you won’t stop until your accused of something, anyway.

    Remember that they don’t have to prove that you’ve done something to destroy your life, and if those jerk teachers at your school think they have an ax to grind, you really are taking a risk.

  3. I didn’t meant that to seem that I thought you deserved such treatment; it’s absolutely wrong that you face this issue, but don’t assume you’re immune from accusation based on your merit. Being exceptionally good makes you more likely to be under scrutiny, unfortunately.

  4. Miller Smith says:

    At a previous school we had a parent who made a false accusation of inappropriate contact with her child against a male teacher. The teacher was suspended from work and sent home to sit beside his phone to wait and see what would be done with him.

    Turns out that next day the principal (who was out of town the day before) met with the parent and saw that the parent was complaining about an email to her child from the teacher. The teacher was corresponding with the child over a science fair project and had put a warning in the signature line to all students that all email contact would cease if the student misbehaved via the email communication. The parent claimed that the warming was intimidation of her child.

    The school system had reported the teacher to child protective services. When child protective services got ahold of the full file, they were outraged that the school system did what it did. But that is not the end…

    The teacher was reinstated the next day, and being non-tenured (1st year of teaching), was told that his contract would not be renewed. That’s right. Everyone agreed that he had done nothing wrong and in fact his warning in the email was a good thing…but he had been reported to child protective services and his name could be searched, so they didn’t want him anymore.

    I was there. Montgomery County, Maryland. Takoma Park Middle School. And the result? The male teachers quit using email and we all hunted for other jobs.

    Never contact children via the internet. Ever. No matter what their age. Never, as a man, teacher in K-8. Ever. And in high school never never never be available for students outside of the regular class period. Never allow students to hang out in your roon during lunch periods or free time that they have. When the final dismissal bell rings, beat the buses out of the parking lot.

    At my new high school, the women tutor after school and the men leave. The women are complaining the burden is on them. The men point out the seriousness of a false charge against men. Everybody sighs. The women tutor and the men leave.

  5. M. J. Wise says:

    As much I admire those who mentor youth on a one-on-one basis, you couldn’t pay me to be a Big Brother. One-on-one contact with a child (especially if the child has a troubled history) with an unrelated adult man is just really risky. False accusations of abuse are very hard to clear yourself of, even if it’s never reaches the stage of prosecution.

    In high school, I knew several male teachers who would avoid being alone with any one student when at all possible (i.e. in afterschool clubs, when the second-to-last student left, you had to leave too.) I didn’t realize the reasoning behind it at the time but I understand now certainly.

  6. About 10 years ago, a study found that boys matched with Big Brothers did considerably better over time than boys who signed up but weren’t assigned a “Big.” The program does seem to work. But they try to screen volunteers rigorously to identify pedophiles, which has to make men wonder why they should set themselves up to be suspects.

  7. It’s a shame, but because the risk of even false accusation is so great, I understand their reluctance.

    In spite of some people’s wanting to minimize the claims about the damage done by parents not marrying, you kind of wonder how many Big Brother would be needed for kids who had dads at home.

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    One on one won’t work – there needs to be small group contact, ideally with one mama.

  9. One on one won’t work – there needs to be small group contact, ideally with one mama.

    And your evidence is…?

  10. Big Brothers, at least the organization here in Austin, is a joke. I tried to volunteer with them. I sat through the orientation class, I filled out the forms and I even cheerfully paid for my own background check. I disavowed NAMBLA and all of that.

    Then came the last step, an interview with their intake coordinator. It went fine for a few minutes: “Can you keep up the commitment to you kid?”, “You realize that getting bored and dropping the kid is more harmful than if you never started?” It was all going fine. Then, strangely, the questions got pointlessly political. Not overtly political, like, “who did you vote for last time around?”, but coyly political. “How do you feel about welfare reform?” “Do you think poor people get treated well enough in America?” Stuff like that.

    As soon as she had asked enough questions to confirm that I was conservative in my outlook (and I’m not a Republican, I don’t see eye to eye with them over lots of issues, I’m more of a Libertarian), the interview was over. Later, when I called, I was told, “sorry, we don’t think you’re a good fit for us.” I asked if something had gone wrong with my background check or if I had filled out a form wrong? “No, we just don’t think you’re a good fit for us.”

    So I don’t have much respect for them any more. This attitude may be limited to the local chapter, I don’t know.

  11. Rob,
    What you are describing kind of sounds like the “dispositions” crap that some education colleges try to get away with indoctrinating in teacher training.

    On the one hand, you don’t want people working with kids who have an automatic contempt for the poor. On the other, you should recognize that respect for the poor doesn’t mean loving entitlements.