In public schools:
Six months ago, a student came to Triton High School
Principal Catherine DePaul with a disturbing story: She believed another
student was involved in a sexual relationship with a teacher at the
school, and she'd seen explicit text messages the two had exchanged.
that moment, prosecutors say, a cover-up was put in motion that
ultimately unraveled Thursday when DePaul, an assistant principal and
three teachers were charged with offenses ranging from child
endangerment to sexual assault and official misconduct.
the five adults has been suspended from the school in the Philadelphia
suburb of Runnemede, and each could face at least five years in prison
The teachers all men in their late 20s or early
30s are accused of striking up relationships with female students
during the 2011-2012 school year.
Of course, if only high school teachers could marry, well, we wouldn't have these problems, would we? Snarkiness aside, this is of particular interest:
Sexual relationships between
teachers and students are not unheard of. Camden County prosecutor
Warren Faulk noted that the media seems particularly fixated on the
female teacher-male student cases that are reported around the country
each year. But what distinguished the allegations at Triton High was the
inaction by administrators who ignored policies and safeguards that
were in place and instead allowed a culture "where teachers thought they
could get away with improper relationships with their students,"
according to Faulk.
"These charges constitute individual personal, moral, legal and ethical failure," Faulk said at a news conference Thursday.
Catholic Church has often been accused, by a range of critics (including serious Catholics), of
fostering a "culture" that leads to "inaction" by bishops and looks the
other way when abuses are likely or actually taking place. There can be
no doubt that certain bishops, priests, and others did indeed do just
that, especially during the 1960s through the 1990s. But some critics
have sought to pin the clergy abuse scandals on Church doctrine,
practice, and structures, most notably the discipline of priestly celibacy for (Latin) Catholic priests. Are they willing to do the same when it comes
to public schools? Are they, in other words, going to say, "The very
nature, structure, and culture of public education leads to sexual abuse"? It's very unlikely.
grave moral failures, whether on the part of bishops and school
administrators, priests and teaches, are exactly that: moral. The
manipulation and abuse of authority is, ultimately, a serious moral
failing. The Catholic Church, more than any other institution, has
recognized this and taken steps to uphold and enforce the moral
teachings that are not just part of her tradition and heritage, but are
integral to an authentically human and just society. Unfortunately, I am
convinced we are just beginning to see the tip of the iceburg with abuse
cases in public schools. And, if so, one key question is simply this:
do public school administrators and others, including parents, have the
requisite moral conviction and fortitude to address the daunting
challenge at hand?