Friday, December 28, 2007

Educator takes aim at sex misconduct

Posted at The Albuquerque Tribune is an excellent article about educators actually taking some positive action to do something about this growing problem in America's school system.

Arthur Brokop, a young substitute teacher, shut the windowless door of the first-grade classroom he'd been called in to oversee.

He dimmed the lights while showing a video and, one by one, put three young girls on his lap so he could fondle them through their clothing.

The crime still haunts the school superintendent in this town surrounded by oil fields and the rugged high desert of northwestern New Mexico.

"We were negligent," superintendent Janel Ryan says, pointedly repeating a word used in a multimillion dollar civil judgment in favor of one of the victims. "It just ate me up."

Her candor is rare. So is the strength of her resolve to make sure a case like this never occurs again.

An AP investigation this fall found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct. The AP also found that many other educators accused of sexual wrongdoing were able to make secret deals with a promise to their districts to leave quietly, some with letters of recommendation.

Even in the most public of sexual misconduct cases, school administrators are often reluctant to talk about it. Among other things, they fear embarrassment, blame and anger from parents.

But that shouldn't stop them from dealing with the issue head-on, says one expert who helps schools deal with and prevent teacher misconduct.

"The `let-sleeping-dogs-lie' mentality is counterproductive," says Robert Shoop, a Kansas State University professor who's written a book for school administrators called "Sexual Exploitation in Schools: How to Spot It and Stop It."

"My suggestion is to admit mistakes, to apologize for mistakes and to make a pledge that you're not going to let this happen again," he says. "There's no guarantee that bad stuff won't happen. But you can certainly reduce the likelihood."

I'd recommend reading the whole article. Ms. Ryan's resolve is to be commended.

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