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Next March 2022, JECSE (Jesuit European Committee for Secondary and Primary Education) and ZIP (Center for Ignatian Pedagogy in Ludwigshafen, Germany) will organize a major Conference around “Protecting Minors in Our Schools: Preventing and Responding to (sexualized) Violence”. All colleagues in our European Jesuit schools’ network are invited!

Creating a safe and healthy environment for all is a first priority for the schools in our global Jesuit network today. As stated in ‘The Living Tradition’, the latest official document on Jesuit education, our schools are expected to actively promote and guarantee environments free from any form of abuse. This conference is about protecting minors (and vulnerable adults) in our schools from any abuse, particularly (most harmful and secretive) sexual abuse.

“What does this have to do with my school?”, one might wonder, especially when no (past or recent) cases have arisen. Yet, abuse of power, and more specifically sexualised violence, is becoming increasingly apparent within all kinds of institutions today – even schools. This conference aims to make this important but difficult topic part of our wider reflections on pedagogy and abuse of power.

First of all, the conference aims to support the principals of our schools. Safeguarding all members of the school community is ultimately their responsibility and it is a very complex one at times. For, what do you do when you get a serious complaint that someone is crossing boundaries in your school? Principals may experience a conflict of loyalties as s/he owes a duty of care to both the teachers and the students. A temptation could also be a desire to protect the good reputation of the school at all costs. And even before ‘something’ comes to the surface, the fundamental question is: am I possibly a person who is blind when it happens before my eyes?

Even acknowledging the importance of the topic, fostering a true ‘culture of integrity’ is not so easy; it requires true attention and expertise. Prevention is about an atmosphere of trust; about the correct use of power to actually be trustworthy: by indeed hearing and protecting those who are vulnerable.

It is about the adults in the school community being aware of the risks of asymmetrical power relationships. This does not mean creating a climate of suspicion! But it does mean enabling staff, students and parents to speak out, if necessary, by breaking the taboo and avoiding secrecy.

By actively creating and supporting a sound and accessible complaints system, while at the same time taking very seriously the anxieties and the safety of the staff. And finally, in a wider sense and for the longer term, by further integrating this awareness through positive curricula for social learning.

Both because of the sensitive nature of this theme and the importance that Fr General is attaching to the whole area of safeguarding, we are proposing that each school sends two participants to the conference – the principal and a support person – so they could fruitfully make use of what is offered in pairs.

The program will offer:

  • (rare) dedicated time for personal reflection;
  • expert keynote speakers helping to deepen reflection and address questions and insecurities;
  • a variety of workshops to share resources, experiences, pitfalls and best practices;
  • a safe space to address delicate questions/concerns with experts and peers;
  • essential insights to help principals build support for themselves in this specific responsibility;
  • valuable general information to start or deepen the reflection within school communities;
  • practical resources to help organise (initial and ongoing) staff training;
  • building a European support group to possibly share future experiences and initiatives.

During the conference resources and recommendations will be shared for a follow-up in the schools. We do want to emphasize, though, that the intention is not to standardize everything for everyone, but rather to help facilitate the school’s own processes. Although deepening awareness around (the importance of) this topic should be a priority for all our schools, it is obvious that our schools have different contexts and experiences. Starting or deepening the process of reflection itself, in our own authentic way and as part of our general Ignatian approach, is what matters most. Ultimately this awareness around safeguarding is ideally owned by the whole school community in a positive way. In this way, a true ‘culture of integrity’ could be fostered for the wellbeing of everybody.

We sincerely hope to welcome colleagues from many of our European schools for this conference:

from 01-04 March 2022
in the Heinrich Pesch Haus,
Ludwigshafen, Germany

However, since covid policies may limit travelling from several European countries, we have now decided we will organize a hybrid conference and thus offer the option of online participation as well. There will be EN/FR/SP/GR translations and language groups for both options!

If you are interested, please:

  • register before mid-January (complete the registration form here)
  • … for preferably two colleagues from your school
  • … and indicate if you will participate in person in Ludwigshafen or online.

You are also invited to visit the Educate Magis page where you can find the recording of our introduction webinar, articles for reflection, and helpful resources to (further) build the safeguarding projects in your schools (in different languages): https://www.educatemagis.org/safeguarding-conference/

 

Hoping to meet you next March,

Yours sincerely,
Agnieszka Baran, director JECSE (per January 2022)
Ulrike Gentner, director ZIP