How to talk to kids about Elizabeth Thomas' case


Elizabeth Thomas has been missing for well over a week now.

Investigators believe she was abducted by her former Maury County teacher, 50-year-old Tad Cummins. Cummins is wanted for aggravated kidnapping and sexual contact with a minor.

TBI said the investigation has revealed a "troubling" pattern of behavior by Cummins. Agents said may have been abusing his role as a teacher to "groom this vulnerable young girl for some time in an effort to lure and potentially sexually exploit her."

It's a romantic relationship, that investigators said began at school.

Kim Janecek with the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville said it's a case that's important to talk to your kids about.

"Parents just need to sit down and make sure that they understand why it's inappropriate to have this type of relationship with an adult," Janecek said.

She said kids need to understand boundaries between themselves and grownups: what's ok, and what's not,

"It's ok for an adult to be there for them, but not in an inappropriate way," Janecek said. "They can be someone that they can talk to but in a safe manner."

Janecek added dialogue on sexuality needs to begin before a child turns one by teaching them which parts are private. It sounds young, but she said that takes the shame out of talking about it.

"Parents need to make sure that they understand that those parts are special," Janecek said. "So anything covered by your swimsuit is your special area, and no one should touch those areas or look at those areas or want anything to do with those areas."

She said that way kids know how to identify assault when it's happening.

"We have to make sure our children have a voice, and that they feel comfortable bringing these subjects up to adults." she said.

The school district said inappropriate contact between Thompson and Cummins was reported by a student who saw them kissing in a classroom.

In a statement released Thursday, the Thomas family attorney said they want to focus the attention on finding Elizabeth, not on what the school district could have done to prevent the crime.

"In hindsight, we can always look back and say, if only we could have done this or done that," said James Thomas, Elizabeth's older brother. "Now is not the time to focus on what could have been done, now is the time to work on getting Elizabeth back home to us."

If you have any questions on how to talk about the case with your kids, you can contact the Sexual Assault Center at 615-259-9055.

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