...was or is just a "Catholic thing," they should carefully read this lengthy October 20, 2007, Associated Press report about the "plague" of sexual misconduct in American public schools. A couple of snippets:
Students in America's schools are groped. They're raped. They're pursued, seduced and think they're in love.
An Associated Press investigation found more than 2,500 cases over five years in which educators were punished for actions from bizarre to sadistic.
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.
Which means, I suppose, that school teachers will soon be routinely mocked as perverts, smirking jokes about lustful teachers with fly on late night television, and there will an explosion of law suits against public schools. Don't bet on it. If there is one thing that seems nearly as inevitable as taxes and death, it is that most Americans will go to the rack for the public school system, which is seen by many as the one and only way to properly educate children. Which is not, by the way, a condemnation of the public school system per se (that is a topic for another time and another post), just an observation about how deeply ingrained public education is in the national psyche (see this excellent short column by Jeff Jacoby about this fact and how irrational it is). But if the numbers reported by the AP are accurate, folks will need to start questioning some of their cherished assumptions:
Clergy abuse is part of the national consciousness after a string of highly publicized cases. But 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.
"From my own experience — this could get me in trouble — I think every single school district in the nation has at least one perpetrator. At least one," says Mary Jo McGrath, a California lawyer who has spent 30 years investigating abuse and misconduct in schools. "It doesn't matter if it's urban or rural or suburban."
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.
For one, many Americans deny the problem, and even treat the abuse with misplaced fascination.media reports trumpet relationships between attractive female teachers and male students.
"It's dealt with in a salacious manner with late-night comedians saying 'What 14-year-old boy wouldn't want to have sex with his teacher?' It trivializes the whole issue," says Robert Shoop, a professor of educational administration atwho has written a book aimed at helping school districts identify and deal with sexual misconduct.
"In other cases, it's reported as if this is some deviant who crawled into the school district — 'and now that they're gone, everything's OK.' But it's much more prevalent than people would think."
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.
The criticism has often been made (and properly so) that some Catholic bishops and leaders did not or have not taken seriously the charges against abusive or allegedly abusive priests. Many have complained, including many Catholics, that there was (and is) stonewalling and, yes, "deeply entrenched resistance" to getting at the truth of the nature and extent of the sex abuse scandals within the the Catholic Church in America. Will there be the same sort of outcry and demand for transparency, justice, and accountability when it comes to sexual abuse of children by public school teachers? I suspect that the power and money of the Catholic Church will look like the small peanuts it is when compared to the power, money, governmental clout, and cultural security enjoyed—speaking generally—by public schools.
Much more could be said about this and likely will be in the weeks and months to come. Meanwhile, on a related note, The Telegraph recently reported:
Child abuse has gone unchecked in the Church of England for decades amid a cover up by bishops, secret papers have revealed.
Information that could have prevented abuse has been "lost or damaged", concerns about individuals have been ignored and allegations have not been recorded. It means that the Church has no idea how many paedophiles are in its midst.
Lawyers warned last night that the Church faces a crisis as catastrophic as the one that engulfed the Roman Catholic Church and cost it millions of pounds in damages.
Here is a modest theory: the sexual abuse of children and young adults is not the result of religious dogmas that wrongly suppress sexual desires, nor is it the result of authoritarian structures that encourage the powerful to dominate the weak—even if those structures can be misused for that end. It is the result of man's sinful nature, of his twisted desires, and of his hunger to satisfy himself rather than die to himself. It is encouraged and often promoted—hyped!—by a culture that so often revels in sexual freedom without responsibility, in the glorification of a guilt-free, self-pleasuring existence that doesn't really exist, but actually leads to spiritual death, destroyed lives, and social chaos.
The question is: are we willing to address it as such?