I was going to post something quick and light today, but after coming across this article I couldn’t help myself. The AP has an article out today (link: “Sexual misconduct plagues U.S. schools”) based on their investigation into the world of sexually abusive educators — and they’ve found that that world is our world. Their summary bullets (based on the CNN webpage where I came across it):
- AP: Educators were punished in 2,500 sex cases from bizarre to sadistic
- Accused are overwhelmingly male, often popular, recognized for excellence
- Quiet punishments allow many violators move on to other schools
- One in 10 victimized children reports sexual abuse, say academic studies
Their seven-month investigation found that 2,570 educators, over the period from 2001 to 2005, experienced changes to their teaching credentials due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Other comments in the article are even more condemning.
Beyond the horror of individual crimes, the larger shame is the institutions that govern education have only sporadically addressed a problem that’s been apparent for years.
“From my own experience — this could get me in trouble — I think every single school district in the nation has at least one perpetrator. At least one,” says Mary Jo McGrath, a California lawyer who has spent 30 years investigating misconduct in schools. “It doesn’t matter if it’s urban or rural or suburban.”
Don’t expect much help from the teachers’ unions. Again, from the article:
Two major teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, each denounced sex abuse while emphasizing the need to consider educators’ rights.
Kathy Buzad of the AFT said that “if there’s one incident of sexual misconduct between a teacher and a student that’s one too many.”
In practice, the AP found less vigilance.
The AP discovered efforts to stop individual offenders but, overall, a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse. It starts in school hallways, where fellow teachers look away or feel powerless to help. School administrators make behind-the-scenes deals to avoid lawsuits and other trouble. And in state capitals and Congress, lawmakers shy from tough state punishments or any cohesive national policy for fear of disparaging a vital profession.
That only enables rogue teachers, and puts kids who aren’t likely to be believed in a tough spot.
(By the way: It is not that I do not believe that there are many good people in the teachers’ unions — people with whom I would agree and disagree on a variety of issues. I just think that — on the whole, and as organizations — the unions are more interested in preserving their power base than anything else. Sometimes this may be good for children. Other times it is not.)
Comments in the article from Robert Shoop, a KSU educational administration professor, are chilling. After condemning late-night talk shows and their ilk for trivializing such tragedies, he says:
“In other cases, it’s reported as if this is some deviant who crawled into the school district — ‘and now that they’re gone, everything’s OK.’ But it’s much more prevalent than people would think.”
He and others who track the problem reiterated one point repeatedly during the AP investigation: Very few abusers get caught.
They point to academic studies estimating that only about one in 10 victimized children report sexual abuse of any kind to someone who can do something about it. When it is reported, teachers, administrators and some parents frequently don’t — or won’t — recognize the signs that a crime is taking place.
One young woman spoke up about the effects on her life due to the teacher who abused her: “I didn’t have my childhood… He had me so matured at so young. I remember going from little baby dolls to just being an adult.” (Perhaps her school district should have simply provided her birth control pills…)
The AP article rightly notes that this will bring up comparisons to the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals, and it should. Whether the public outcry will be as large, only time will tell. I’m certainly no fan of the Catholic Church or it’s doctrines (1 Timothy 4:1-3, I believe, highlights one source of its troubles among many), but it’s easy to see that the Roman Church is a much more popular punching bag in our media than the public school systems are. We’ll see if the systemic problems and lack of effective accountability that continue to allow such perverted individuals to remain in positions of influence and power over our children in the public schools will be attacked as publicly and passionately as the Catholic Church’s problems have been. I’m not optimistic, but willing to wait and see.
Bible prophecies speak of a time to come when children truly are safe (Zech. 8:4-6). This is not that time. And sadly, our schools are no exception.
I’ve quoted them liberally — please visit the AP article I linked to above, “Sexual misconduct plagues U.S. schools”, read it, and draw your own conclusions.