Students pledge to put an end to child abuse

ByEmily Baucum

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Kids chained up like dogs. A toddler, sexually abused and beaten to death.

Those are just two of the horrific cases of child abuse in our area we’ve reported on in the past few weeks.

A group of local teenagers says, no more – they’re pledging to put an end to child abuse.

Hundreds of students at KIPP University Prep gathered Friday afternoon to recite a pledge written by their peers.

“I pledge to protect the innocence of all children in my world; to support efforts to end child abuse in my community; to believe a child, intervene and report if I suspect child abuse,” they said in unison.

Students wrote the pledge after learning about the epidemic of child abuse in Bexar County.

“One in four girls is going to get abused, and one in six boys is going to get abused,” KIPP freshman Destiny Urdiales says.

“Last year in the state of Texas there were 171 deaths because of child abuse,” KIPP senior Jamila Guajardo says.

“They don’t have a voice and they’re being abused,” KIPP senior Ray Morales says.

Through the pledge, students are taking it upon themselves to give those victims a voice.

“Oftentimes we sell teenagers short,” KIPP school leader Abby Morton-Garland says. “And they have such an ability to impact our world and impact our communities.”

Their words made an emotional impact on State Senator Carlos Uresti (D – San Antonio).

“I’m so proud of them,” he said. “This is the kind of stuff that chokes me up. That makes me happy when I think about the work that I’ve done as a Senator on this issue.”

Right now, State Sen. Uresti is focusing on how to keep caseworkers at Child Protective Services on the job. He’s working on legislation to raise salaries and spend more money on prevention and education.

“At a minimum we have a 20% turnover rate with our caseworkers,” State Sen. Uresti says. “Over five years, generally speaking, there’s a 100% turnover rate. There’s not a business in this country that can operate like that.”

A broken system, but the students’ pledge brings renewed hope the next generation will make sure our children are protected.

“They are the future of this whole world and if they can make a difference, even one by one, it will change everything,” Urdiales says.