Thursday, August 23, 2007

Who Is Teaching Your Children? A Wolf in Sheeps Clothing Perhaps

I don't mean to alarm you, but don't assume your son or daughters teacher is above reproach. Especially here in Missouri. A recent audit of Missouri schools and teachers showed that many had some sort of criminal background--often including violent crimes or child abuse. An article was published by Teacher Magazine Weekly.

I once got a teacher fired because of their history of child abuse/molestation. I was a teacher for 4 years and each year there was an incident of what is called molestation. I taught high school and it is much trickier there, as many of the students are 17 and 18. I will not get into a debate now about teacher/student relations. I have never understood them. More often than not the person in power--the teacher--is to blame. That's all I'll say about that.

So my first year as a high school teacher, I was at a city school. I'll translate the word city for those of you who aren't sure why that notation matters--city=poor, minority and marginalized students. One administrator who I will call Little Mr. Big sent up a flag with me. He talked about himself in the 3rd person, he couldn't quite put together a grammatically correct sentence and he misspelled achievement on a bulletin board he made for the day the state auditors were coming. To say I didn't like him is an understatement, but I have long ago learned you aren't always going to like the people you work with. I ignored him most of the time and as a teacher it is generally pretty easy to close your classroom door and do your job.

Well, I overheard some gossip. Again those of you who are teachers know that gossip is a very high commodity in a school. If you have it people will flock to you. I am not a gossip really, but I do like to listen to gossip. I will/can admit that. So, I heard a rumor that Little Mr. Big had been fired from a previous school district, in a state just across the river for child molestation. I was appalled by this. I couldn't believe that our system was so fucked up that it couldn't find out the true history, or that if it did it would look the other way.

So, I set out to do some digging. It didn't take me long. I went to the online archives of our local paper and did a quick search. It returned 3 results in a matter of seconds. I purchased the articles that revealed the Little Mr. Big had been let go from his previous teaching job for promising a student an A if he had sex with him. The student was male. The student was smart and told his parents, who in turn told the police. The police set up a sting operation and arrested Little Mr. Big at the hotel with the boy. Little Mr. Big didn't go to jail, but we sentenced to probabtion and a condition of his probabtion was that he was no longer to ever work with children again. Well here he was 8 years later working with students, young students in a position of authority.

I printed out the articles and delivered them to my principal. Two days later he was fired. It was a big step for me. I thought about how maybe in 8 years he had changed. I thought maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe if I had like him I might have. I questioned my motives for a long time and finally came to grips with the fact that it was my professional responsibility as a teacher to protect my students. Little Mr. Big was a predator.

It saddens me that this happens at all and with any frequency. But education is fraught with corruption. School districts don't want a blight on their record. They reassign teachers/staff who seemingly have problems or have been accused. In the absence of evidence I think this is good, as it is never like a student hasn't lied to hurt a teacher that they feel wronged them. But educators and schools tend to overlook issues. Districts will release teacher and administrators promising them that if they just go work at another district they will give them a recommendation. Where is the accountability? What are we teaching our students/children?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Good for you. It amazes me that we all had to jump through the insane number of hoops to adopt a child, yet teachers don't have the same hoops (or any hoops, in some districts).