Why can't we keep pedophiles out of our schools?
I'm a huge supporter of the public school system, but when my stepson wanted to come and live with us in NYC, circumstances made it so that we had to look into a private school.
During the school search process, I ran into some shocking news that had nothing to do with the sticker price: There is a long history of child molestation at Horace Mann, an elite private school in Manhattan.
It was highlighted in this story by The New York Times "Prep School Predators").
Once the story was published, it incited nearly 800 comments within the first 48 hours alone. And a private Facebook group called "Processing Horace Mann," landed 1,400 members within 25 hours of going live.
The Times piece talks about the inappropriate behavior of three former teachers (all of them deceased), who abused young male students decades ago. Some commentors blamed Horace Mann's former head--R. Inslee Clark Jr.--for allowing such behavior to go on without a consequence, just like the Vatican turning a blind eye to its long list of pedophile priests. It really boils my blood.
As comments started pouring, one former student after another came forward with their own stories of abuse. I started feeling so much rage that is hard to explain it, but the mere thought of one teacher rubbing my daughter's leg while saying perverted things to her (as in one of the victim's stories) makes me want to grab a knife and stab him without mercy.
Even scarier is that according to a nationwide investigation by the Associated Press in 2007, 2,570 educators were found to have engaged in sexual misconduct between 2001 and 2005 and more than 80% of those cases involved children.
What's worse is that there doesn't seem to be a system in place, dealing with this issue.
Why are licensed teachers not getting better screenings? Why are schools firing them for inadequate behavior, rather than reporting them to the state so they at least take away their teaching license? Repeat offenders are common and the only way of making sure that abusers don't get teaching positions is reporting such abuses. Handling these issues "quietly" merely displaces the problem to another community.
I wonder why these people waited this long to share their stories at Horace Mann, I really lament what happened to them and I also feel terrible for their families, who thought that their kids were at a safe place. And if the former head of Horace Mann knew what was going on and didn't do anything, he's also at fault.
There's no safe place. That's the awful truth and this is a wake-up call for all parents, whom must remain vigilant and involved in their kid's school life, no matter how much tuition they're paying.
How did you feel when you heard the story? Do you think there are ways to avoid having this happen to your kids?
Image via dcjohn/flickr