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Essays

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Posted: Oct 29, 2005 09:44

TRANSPARENCY

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By: Lon Woodbury

Transparency is one of the best tools a school or program can have in place to reduce criticism, and ensure safety and effectiveness. By that, I mean that the program is open to visitors and has a philosophy that tells visitors "What you see is what you get." What actually goes on in a program becomes common knowledge when there is a steady stream of parents and visitors to that program. It is only when a school or program is closed off, and visits are tightly controlled or non-existent that the question comes up "What are they trying to hide?"

This is not to say that a school or program should open their books and campus to anyone and everyone at anytime. That would be a disaster, especially in a school or program working with teens who are manipulative and have been making negative decisions. In addition, many things are properly proprietary and not necessary for a visitor to adequately understand the program, its safety and effectiveness. However, when observant people are allowed to visit, the students themselves will tell the visitor what they need to know by their behavior and body language, and the professionals and parents will let the rest of us know what they think.

Any astute observer of human nature can watch a group of students and tell in less than five minutes if these students feel safe and comfortable, or if they are closed off and fearful. Punitive programs have students that are closed off to visitors, or appear fearful of saying something that would get them in trouble. On the other hand, when the students seem comfortable talking with strangers, and while socializing there is a busy buzz of conversation, this is a good clue they feel the adults around them are supportive and sympathetic.

Most professionals that work in this field have good observation abilities. A school or program with a steady stream of independent educational consultants and various types of experienced therapists and parents visiting would find it difficult to hide the results of shoddy hiring, cutting corners or a punishment oriented philosophy.

The same principle applies to all resources in the struggling teens' network, including referring and transport agencies. If a website does not identify the people behind it as well as their experience and credentials, that is the same thing as a school or program that is either closed off or highly restrictive to visitors. It raises the question: "What are they trying to hide?"

In all these cases, parents need to use caution when dealing with schools and programs that are not open to visits by parents or competent professionals, or that maintain an anonymous website. There is no good reason to be secretive.

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