Dallas seminary students training to identify sex abuse

Students at the Dallas Theological Seminary are taking lessons in identifying sex abuse and protecting vulnerable children. Some critics argue the online training is a good step forward but is not enough.

The seminary is one of the first in North Texas to offer this kind of training to their seminary students.

All students going into ministry will be required to take an online course on what to look for and how to report sexual abuse.

Even with the new training, some advocates believe there's still a lot of work to do on this tough issue.

When Dallas Theological Seminary President Mark Bailey started his career as a pastor, he encountered an unexpected issue his first month on the job

“We were suddenly confronted with a legal issue of alleged abuse that happened,” he explained.

Bailey says in his 30-plus years as a pastor, he'd never learned how to spot sexual abuse.

“I had no previous training in that at all,” Bailey said. “So if we can prepare people who are going into ministry before they get into ministry of how to watch for it and how to treat it if it does happen.”

“It does bring up a lot of things we need to be aware of,” said student Courtney Trippe. “If an abuser has never been arrested or convicted of a sexual crime, then running background checks isn't going to filter them out because they're not in the system.”

Students going into ministry will be required to take the online course which covers how to spot red flags, what to look for and what to do about it.

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, also known as SNAP, works with abuse victims. Advocates there say the training is a good first step.

“I think just talking about it is a positive,” said SNAP Volunteer Amy Smith. “The weakness is if it just stops there. If it just stops as the training of what it is and the impact on children.”

But SNAP says more can and should be done.

“It's not just understanding what sexual abuse is. It's seeing that a child is worth more than the image of the institution,” said Smith. “That's not something you can just learn in an hour online. It's got to be in the character.”

DTS educators say their program is still evolving but hope this first step will inspire other schools to follow suit.

DTS is also developing a 40-hour elective course to further that training. Only students going into ministry will be required to take the course.

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