The Los Angeles Superintendent of schools is getting a lot of attention currently for his decision to remove and entire school's staff after he learned that a teacher had been accused of playing classroom sex games with children for years. Years. Perhaps no one would be upset to hear that the teacher in question had been let go. Even the hard-core union folks would probably be okay with the idea that this person had limited contact with children for some time. But the entire staff? What was going through this guy's head?
Well, it was this phrase: "culture of silence." The idea that no one at the school would have a suspicion or clue to what was going on next door for years seems a little hard to fathom. So what would or should these teachers, custodians, aides, parents, administrators done in such a case? Who wants to be the rat? Who wants to stand up and be accountable for such an accusation? Sure, if it turns out to be a mistake, do you want to be the person responsible for almost ensuring that someone's teaching career is over? On the other hand, how could you live with yourself if any one of the children you were there to educate and protect came to any kind of harm?
For me, it turns out to be a pretty easy choice. It's not one of those TV movie of the week questions where a good-looking, caring teacher is wrongfully accused by a bitter and confused adolescent with a chip on his or her shoulder. It's about protecting six-to-ten-year olds. The bad guy was fired, after being charged with twenty-three acts of lewd act on a child, and the rest of the staff is being given jobs elsewhere. How awful would it be to have to give up your classroom in a school where you had spent the last fifteen years? How about if it was your first year of teaching and you had no idea who this terrible person was, let alone what he was doing behind closed doors? These are grown-ups who have to deal with that struggle. The investigation led to the firing of another teacher who was charged with three counts of lewd acts on a child. About three too many. Both were veteran teachers who had taught at the school for more than twenty years. It makes me wonder how many other stories are waiting to be told, and how many will never be told.
Think Penn State. Think Joe Paterno. Think Jerry Sandusky. Think.