Honest. I try to stay neutral and keep the topics to things related to writing and not politics. But … Well, lately, recent news and my long past experiences in newspaper work have collided. I will not reveal names or places here.
My experience as a journalist was pretty broad. I worked in smaller newspapers in a number of communities covering sports, local politics, school boards, city councils, and law enforcement. Not to brag, but I won an award for school board coverage one year.
As a parent and step-parent, I care about and want to protect those in my care. I believe in open management of cities and schools, and that drove a lot of how I approached coverage of those areas.
The collision occurred when recent government and union overreach became evident in management of public education and determining what would be included in curriculum and how schools are run. When I covered school board meetings, they were generally open, publicly attended meetings with often free-flowing discussions and public input. However, back then, parents were welcomed to present thoughts and issues and their input–it seemed–was taken seriously. The only time I remember them having closed meetings was to discuss personnel issues.
But, some things happened back then. My investigations uncovered a few incidents of faculty and/or staff who were behaving inappropriately with students. One was a male teacher who kept touching young female high school students. Another was a young man (an athletic staffer, if I remember correctly) who was molesting a young female student. And, another case where female grade school coaches would force young female students to use the toilet while they looked on. Supposedly, this was a behavior correction method. I started digging.
What I found was the first case, the male teacher, had a long history of his behavior in other school districts. He got shuffled around from one district to another with glowing referrals so that the former district could get rid of him and wouldn’t have to deal with the fallout. When the final school district was confronted about that particular teacher, they moved the teacher from the high school to the grade school. Yeah, that seemed appropriate. The teacher was represented by the union, of course. Firing would be difficult and expensive, if not impossible.
The second case was frustrating because as soon as it was apparent that I was on that athletic staffer’s trail, he jumped ship and ran back to Canada (he evidently held a dual citizenship). Since he was a young adult and the student was significantly under age, he was looking at pretty severe consequences. I suspected but couldn’t prove that the school superintendent warned the young man.
In the third case, the coaches were also teachers and thus protected by the union. While the issue and even parental complaints were heard by the school board, it was obvious they could do nothing about it. The teacher/coaches were involved in closed meetings and probably admonished, but that was about it.
Keep in mind that these incidents occurred some 30-40 years ago. If you think anything has changed for the better in how schools operate since then, think again. About the only difference today is that parents are treated like “terrorists” when they challenge school district policies. Some school district do not allow local law enforcement to respond to crimes committed on their school grounds, but insist on responding and investigating themselves. They are school administrators and teachers, not trained police officers or detectives.
The point here is that as parents, members of a community, and taxpayers, we have a right and a responsibility to know what is going on in our schools, how they are run, who is making decisions, and what is being taught to our children. Stay vigilant.
Thanks for your patience.