Letters: An Inevitable Conversation

Japayuki: A Novel

Friday, February 28, 2014

Teacher Sex Predator 1, Female Sexual Assault Victim 0

So, I offered a scenario where a female student, hopefully not your daughter, but certainly someone’s daughter is essentially manhandled in a Texas high school classroom. The whole incident is captured on streaming video by another student; a proper and thorough report is expeditiously submitted to campus administrators by a second, responsible teacher, with a copy to the campus police officers. So the assumption here would be the suspect teacher is immediately removed from the classroom, placed on administrative leave pending a district investigation. The student victim is evaluated by the school nurse, in that she is a minor, perhaps a counselor is involved. Her parents are summoned and their rights are explained. The Special Victims Units of the local police department is involved.

That is way you thought it would all work out, correct? Did you too naively assume that the female (minor) would be the first and foremost concern of the district? In most districts, she would have been; and to their credit, this same campus, within a three year period, did get it mostly right. In four cases of male teachers engaging female students, three of those male teachers were removed/dismissed. In this ‘scenario,’ the fourth case, here is what transpired.

The teacher submitting the report was summoned to the administrative offices. He was asked to surrender all copies of the report he had produced. All copies were shredded. Then he was directed by administration not to discuss the event further with anyone for any reason (aka, district gag order). The female student who had recorded the assault on her phone was summoned. Her phone was confiscated; her SIM card (evidence) was destroyed by a campus police officer. Typically, campus police officers are on campus to protect the students; in this case, they simply intimidated a student into silence. (Note here the student whose property was wrongfully confiscated and destroyed was a special needs student.) The female student who was assaulted in the classroom was expelled, classic ‘victim blaming.’ The teacher who assaulted the female student in the classroom during instructional time was allowed to continue in his position until retirement.

So, how many of you guessed the outcome right? We hear so much these days about school yard bullying, but there is also a lot of just plain bull being spewed on ‘reforming’ education. There are so many ‘educational organizations’ hawking their good deeds and lofty goals and objectives on Twitter and Google+. While they tweet and post their glowing selfies (asking for your financial support in the process) our daughters are apparently fair game in the classrooms. So, the next time you sit and listen to your child’s campus administrator brag about the student being first, well, take that with a grain of salt. What he probably means is, your child will come first, after he first protects his own ass and pay check. And, when the administrative staff becomes the just another intimidating ‘gang’ on campus, start considering home schooling.

Next time I will write my take on what the district leadership communicated to this Texas community, and essentially the nation in accomplishing this classic Penn State style cover up; for now, undersrtand that the mission and function of this 'task force' to protect students against sexual assault on our campuses is to work with others agencies in developing a coordinated federal response to campus rape and sexual assault.  This function if only advisory in nature. If you really want to help finally break this cycle of child abuse within our ailing school system, write your local school board and demand all incidents of sexual assault on district campuses be made public, that all predators be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and that our children be truly considered first and never blamed for sexual assaults against them. Our daughters deserve that much.

Monday, February 24, 2014

How would a parent/school administrator respond to the following event?

   The following is a fictitious scenario; please read it carefully and thoroughly. It is based on an actual event recorded on a Texas high school campus. No names, no campus, no district is mentioned here. Those elements are not necessary. This scenario has played out in the past, is playing out now, and will play out in the future on campuses throughout the U.S., from elementary to high school campuses, public and private schools, to college campuses of every design. As you read this account, keep in mind the Penn State/Coach Sandusky case, and then think about the children we send off to school every morning.

   “It is a bright sunny morning. You wake your teenage daughter and struggle to get her motivated enough to get ready for school. She is no saint, but you believe, as do all parents, that with the proper education, she will be successful in life; and who knows, maybe she will even continue on to college (someday).  Dropping her off in front of her high school, you feel confident as she walks through the doors; she will be safe and engaged in the glowing curriculum your state has laid out for her. You continue on to work. Later that afternoon, you receive a call from the campus administration. Your daughter is being expelled from school; you are asked to return to the campus and pick her up.
   Here is what has transpired. Your daughter skipped a class, but the campus administrator did not assign her to the on campus suspension room, nor was she returned to her rightful classroom; instead, the administrator escorted your daughter to another classroom to sit and wait for the dismissal bell. While in the classroom (she is not the only “skipper” in the room) she is free to socialize with the other girls in the improvised holding room. The teacher in the classroom is a male, and he provides the girls with treats of chips, drinks, and candy. But that is not all the teacher provides. He provides your daughter with a “special” lesson for the day. He comes up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist; he bends her over, allowing his arms to cradle her breasts. He then begins to tighten his grasp on her body as he rocks her back and forth allowing her buttocks to contact against his groin.”

   End of scenario (for now). 
   Ask any educator and they will quickly explain that physical contact with a student, any student, much less a student of the opposite sex is never okay. This event would have gone un-noted had it not been for another teenager present in that room; a teenager with a cell phone. The entire incident had been captured on streaming video.

   So, my question again: how would you have reacted to viewing this video, or just reading a report about its existence? How would any administration reacted? Parents? Community? I will follow with what actually happened (allegedly) to see if you have assumed correctly. Please feel free to comment as you see fit.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault Public Listening Sessions

I will participate in the February 14, 2014, session entitled: Victim Advocates, Rape Crisis Center Staff, Victim Service Providers, including Campus-based and Community Programs.

I have submitted the following comments for consideration:

Institutional policies and protocols that address sexual assault/inappropriate acts with children/students read correct in published district policies and directives; unfortunately, it would appear the lack of enforcement at the campus level by administrators, some of whom participate openly in violations, are the invitations for others to engage in such activity.

Responding to diverse, undeserved or historically marginalized victims is a serious issue. In a case I am now addressing as an advocate, a young female student, know to administrators as a “hall walker,” was ignored, in fact punished when she became a victim of inappropriate, possibly sexual assault at the hands of a male teacher.

Prevention programs are, I believe, built into the system by virtue of a schedule of classes and mandated attendance requirements (state and district). If a strong enforcement environment is in maintained, if students not in class attendance are disciplined swiftly, appropriately, and consistently, the opportunity for sexual assaults on campus would minimize, if not eliminated completely.

Crisis intervention and advocacy services, not associated with the campus, and perhaps even the district, must be available to students who report sexual assault. In the case I am addressing, the district law enforcement officers, assigned to the campus on which the assault occurred, were instrumental in the destruction of evidence, witness intimidation, and coercion.

Complaint and grievance procedures, as with the crisis intervention and advocacy services, especially in highly emotional sexual assault cases, must be detached from the campus on which incident has occurred.  place. I will go further and say, typical complaint and grievance procedures are not qualified to address sexual complaints. A 9-1-1 call is more appropriate with immediate depositions and official police reports.

Responsibility for investigation protocols and procedures regarding any violent crime, especially one as heinous as a sexual assault of a child/student should be immediately fall on the Special Victims Unit of the municipality in which the district is located.

Adjudicatory procedures in all sexual assault cases involving children/students need to be prioritized and highly publicized. Disciplinary sanctions should never enter the process; maximum sentences for any and all child/abusers should always be the goal of the prosecution.

Training and orientation modules for students, staff, and faculty need to be implemented in public venue, with child and parent present, even as a public service presentation on local television stations.

If proper and aggressive preventive measures are in place, the need for evaluating and measuring the success of prevention and response efforts should be minimal.

In the San Antonio area, most districts finding they need to deal with an inappropriate teacher/student situation openly share the information with the public; however, these are those districts which opt to deal with those issues silently.

Making enforcement activities transparent and accessible is a non-negotiable. Both student and staff, all staff, must be aware that the campus is on a constant state of high alert for inappropriate, non-academic activities during academic time, during transition periods, during lunch, while engaged in before and after school activities.

Promoting greater coordination and consistency among federal agencies is a must. In states where governors are weak in educational concerns, district staff must prioritize communication with not only federal agencies, but state and local law enforcement agencies.

Maximizing the Federal Government’s effectiveness in combatting campus rape and sexual assault falls on every employee of every school district. If an employee, at any level, is not satisfied with the results of reporting an incident to a campus/district administration, that individual has the responsibility of reporting the incident to the next higher authority.