However, most are not, according to a new AP study.
The AP investigation found 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.
In case after case the AP examined, accusations of inappropriate behavior were dismissed. One girl in Mansfield, Ohio, complained about a sexual assault by teacher Donald Coots and got expelled. It was only when a second girl, years later, brought a similar complaint against the same teacher that he was punished.
And that second girl also was ostracized by the school community and ultimately left town.
Unless there’s a videotape of a teacher involved with a child, everyone wants to believe the authority figure, says Wayne Promisel, a retired Virginia detective who has investigated many sex abuse cases.
He and others who track the problem reiterated one point repeatedly during the AP investigation: Very few abusers get caught.
They point to several 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.
Too often, the media and the school officials don’t take it seriously enough. Some amateur opinion writers and bloggers ignore institutional problems with the excuse that “at least we know about the problems” and “we have safeguards in place to take care of them,” then they go on to call for institutional oversight for homeschoolers.
There are 3 million public school teachers nationwide, most devoted to their work. Yet the number of abusive educators – nearly three for every school day – speaks to a much larger problem in a system that is stacked against victims.
Most of the abuse never gets reported. Those cases reported often end with no action. Cases investigated sometimes can’t be proven, and many abusers have several victims.
And no one – not the schools, not the courts, not the state or federal governments – has found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms.
That’s right: the institutional school systems fail to protect their own students, they fail to adequately screen their own employees, they let abusers resign quietly and move on to another job, but citizens are supposed to trust them when they want to supervise private home-based education.
“I thought my children were safest in school,” the girl’s mother says. She shakes her head. As a child, she went to Pershing Elementary, the same school her two daughters attended and one of several in Berwyn, where Sperlik taught band for 18 years.
“I don’t trust anybody now.”
One report mandated by Congress estimated that as many as 4.5 million students, out of roughly 50 million in American schools, are subject to sexual misconduct by an employee of a school sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade. That figure includes verbal harassment that’s sexual in nature.
Jennah Bramow, one of Lindsey’s accusers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wonders why there isn’t more outrage.
“You’re supposed to be able to send your kids to school knowing that they’re going to be safe,” says Bramow, now 20. While other victims accepted settlement deals and signed confidentiality agreements, she sued her city’s schools for failing to protect her and others from Lindsey – and won. Only then was Lindsey’s teaching license finally revoked.
The AP story states that “until now, there’s been little sense of the extent of educator abuse…. Beyond the horror of individual crimes, the larger shame is that the institutions that govern education have only sporadically addressed a problem that’s been apparent for years.” But really, some parents have know for a long time; the same parents who are demonized by the self-righteous defenders of mandatory, universal, institutionalized education.
Two of the nation’s major teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, each denounced sex abuse while emphasizing that educators’ rights also must be taken into account.
“Students must be protected from sexual predators and abuse, and teachers must be protected from false accusations,” said NEA President Reg Weaver, who refused to be interviewed and instead released a two-paragraph statement.
That’s a really fascinating point of view: public school teachers have rights, apparently, that parents don’t. The teachers’ unions claim rights to privacy and rights against illegal search and seizure that they explicitly want to deny to home educators.
Laws in several states require that even an allegation of sexual misconduct be reported to the state departments that oversee teacher licenses. But there’s no consistent enforcement, so such laws are easy to ignore.
School officials fear public embarrassment as much as the perpetrators do, Shakeshaft says. They want to avoid the fallout from going up against a popular teacher. They also don’t want to get sued by teachers or victims, and they don’t want to face a challenge from a strong union.
So, do we need a new government program to protect kids from teachers, to go along with the proposals from the hypocrites who want government to protect kids from parents? No.
The primary responsibility for protecting children lies with their parents. If the parents fail at this, their families and their communities should step in to take responsibility. Only if children are abandoned by their family and their community does the local or state government need to help out. There is never a case where the federal government has any part.
The public school system exists to serve the parents; the local government exists to serve the people; and the federal government exists to serve the collective interest of the people and the local governments. It is a sign of a perverse ethical system to believe that the opposite is true.