HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Huntsville police have arrested Gregory Lankford, 57, on charges of being a school employee who had sexual contact with a student under the age of 19.
After the alleged victim reported the incident, police said the Huntsville Special Victims Unit identified Lankford as an employee of the local school. He worked as a security guard and was formerly Lee High School’s softball coach, school officials told News 19.
While the facts of the case are still under investigation, local child abuse experts have said the dangers to children can come in unexpected directions.
“We used to hear that we should really worry about strangers, and the truth is most of the time children are sexually abused by someone they know and someone their parents know. “said Pam Clasgens, director of prevention for the National Child Advocacy Center.
According to the National Child Advocacy Center, approximately 90% of child abuse victims know their abuser. Over a five-year period, 2,570 educators across the United States had their credentials revoked or suspended due to suspected sexual misconduct with a student.
“We really want to make sure that as parents we talk to everyone around our kids, so we know who they are and what our kids are doing when they’re with these other adults,” Clasgens told News 19.
The National Child Advocacy Center reports that children often don’t talk about sexual abuse. Warning signs can include significant changes in mood or behavior.
Maintaining an open dialogue with children from an early age can make them more comfortable reporting incidents to a trusted adult.
“Parents can talk to kids about basic body safety,” Clasgens said. “No one should touch you anywhere on your body that’s covered by a swimsuit, and if they do, let me know or a trusted adult know.”
Lankford was taken to Madison County Jail on Tuesday and then released on $2,500 bond.
The incident is still under investigation by the Huntsville Police Department and Huntsville City Schools.
The National Child Advocacy Center offers free counseling and therapy to child victims of sexual assault. For more information on their local services and educational materials, you can visit their website here.
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