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Last Week’s Story about the teacher-student sex scandal in a Colorado school — the principal and vice principal were indicted for failure to report he case, as required since they’re “mandatory reporters” of child abuse under state law — is followed up this week by another that really applies to the whole mindset. That would be the Utah school where girls (and boys? Unclear) are not allowed to say no when asked to dance:
“You guys are misunderstanding again,” Natalie Richard told her daughter. But it wasn’t the sixth-grader who was mistaken: Kanesville Elementary School in West Haven, Utah, really does have a policy that at its Valentine’s Day dance, “no” is not an acceptable answer. “We want to promote kindness, and so we want you to say yes when someone asks you to dance,” said district official Lane Findlay. Students aren’t required to attend the school’s event, and Richard was able to get the principal to mention the rule on a permission slip. But she couldn’t get him to let girls say no. “Sends a bad message to girls that girls have to say ‘yes’,” Richard said, and it “sends a bad message to boys that girls can’t say ‘no’.” Students are asked in advance to list five schoolmates they’d like to dance with, and Findlay said if a student was uncomfortable with a request, that “can be addressed.” (AC/KSTU Salt Lake City) …It can be addressed more easily by letting them say no.
There was a quote that Alexander left out; we only have so much room! The mother, Ms Richard, noted (speaking of the principal), “He basically just said they’ve had this dance set up this way for a long time and they’ve never had any concern before.” She hit it on the head with a restatement of her problem with the whole idea: “Psychologically, my daughter keeps coming to me and saying I can’t say ‘no’ to a boy,” she said. “That’s the message kids are getting.”
Indeed so, and that’s exactly the problem. They aren’t allowed to say no. They are also taught “don’t talk about” anything to do with sex — so when they can’t say no, or the boy (or teacher!) does something to them anyway even if they do muster up the courage to say no, they don’t have the encouragement, or maybe even the vocabulary, to tell their parents there’s something going on that’s making them uncomfortable. That’s one of the many reasons child predators get away with so much for so long.
In True’s most recent podcast, Kit and I talk about the failures involved in the Colorado school case, which (because the school officials allegedly failed in their “mandatory reporting” duty) led to the same teacher molesting even more children. Such cases can grow to absolutely ridiculous proportions, as Kit and I discuss. It’s certainly not an “entertaining” episode, but it’s definitely an important one, and I urge you to listen to it — especially if you’re a parent, or a grandparent, of young children. It’s sobering, but you need to know this stuff. Here’s last week’s story so you don’t have to go looking for it:
When the Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Crime
In August, Brian Vasquez, 34, a social studies teacher at Prairie Middle School in Aurora, Colo., was arrested, charged with sexual abuse. Now, Principal David Gonzales and Assistant Principal Adrienne MacIntosh are also in trouble: when the student complained about Vasquez three years prior, they “impress[ed] upon her the devastating effects her disclosure would have on his career and family,” and urged her “to recant her disclosure of sexual abuse by Vasquez,” investigators say. When the frightened 14-year-old did as they demanded, Gonzales and MacIntosh forced the girl to apologize to Vasquez and hug him — and then suspended her for “making up” the accusation. Vasquez now admits he did abuse the girl, and went on to victimize “several” other children. Vasquez, who has been teaching full time for 10 years, is charged with at least 31 felony child-sex counts. The school administrators, who claim they “don’t remember” the incident, have been charged with failing to report child abuse or neglect — a simple misdemeanor subject to a fine of $50-750, and zero to six months in jail. (RC/KMGH Denver) …Which is how we know we have “courts of law” rather than “courts of justice.”
The podcast, by the way, has a significant update on that story.
Meanwhile, simply because I told the story last week, and pointed to that podcast, about two dozen readers unsubscribed. Only one had the guts to actually write and protest about it. “Piano Guy” in South Carolina complained, “I have been a subscriber a lot longer than your records seem to indicate. Although I have enjoyed it, this most recent edition was rather dark in tone, which is not what I have come to expect from your newsletter.”
“The records” show he got his (free) subscription in 2009. Sure he could well have subscribed longer, for instance at a different address, but either way, he has read thousands of stories over the years. But he can’t take one that points out how adults failed the children they’re paid to be responsible for, so he’s turning his back to guard against ever having to see such a story again. He refuses to be alerted to the fact that anyone — piano teachers included — can (and should!) watch out for kids who may be abused, and get them help.
Yep, it’s an ugly problem: you sure as hell can hear that in my voice in the podcast. But this is what thinking is about: seeing the issues involved and why this stuff is so important. We can’t talk about difficult subjects every now and then, among the “entertaining” stories? Really?
And that’s another of the many reasons child predators get away with so much for so long. They’re counting on you to look the other way. Let’s stop cooperating with that expectation. Girls, boys, women, and men shouldn’t merely be able to say no, they should be empowered to do it. And they should be able to get help when someone doesn’t take no for an answer.
The Weber School District “got the message,” CNN reported Tuesday (February 13 — ahead of the dance).
“In the best interest of our students, we are re-examining the procedures surrounding these dances,” the district says in a written statement, “and will make any necessary changes to promote a positive environment where all students feel included and empowered in their choices.”
Um, that sounds pretty non-commital, so they continued: “We have advised our schools to eliminate any sort of language in the instructions surrounding these dances that would suggest a student must dance with another student.” Yeah, that’s the clarity needed.
In this day and age, when all kids should be learning they have the right to say “no,” the school district has lurched into the 21st century. Sometimes it takes a little prompting, and then good people do something!
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