Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A School Lesson in Steubenville, Ohio

Earlier this year, a great deal of press was given to a shameful incident involving students at a Steubenville, Ohio school.  The case involved the rape of a teenager at a party. The girl was intoxicated, and her attackers were well-respected members of the school football team.  One can only imagine the kind of mob mentality that took over that night.  The girl’s impaired state was no excuse for the behavior of the young men who took advantage of the girl’s diminished capacity, but what is most shocking is the behavior of school authorities that engaged in a conspiracy to protect the football players. 

A school superintendant, a counselor, and a coach have been charged for their various roles in the alleged cover up—and they should rightly be held accountable.  Even if those “adults” did not take part in the crime, their responsibility as school officials and representatives was to report the incident and take the necessary disciplinary steps, not conceal a crime.

Parents and students should feel that teachers, counselors, and other school officials have their best interests at heart.  Protecting the players who attacked the girl helped no one.  Those predators needed to learn a lesson and accept the consequences of their actions.  Some will argue that the girl should have behaved more responsibly, and indeed, she should have.  However, cruel, insensitive people conspired to use her foolishness to their advantage and make her a victim.  “Adults” who should have looked out for her interests and not simply pandered to the local celebrities then betrayed her by protecting those who made her a victim. 

As a teacher, I have long been told what my responsibilities were. Any time a crime against a child is suspected, adults must speak up and see that the proper authorities investigate.  If the suspicions or accusations are proven untrue, the school representative will not be charged—as long as he or she acted in good faith.  If a school authority does not act, the negligent person can be held responsible.  If that official suspects physical or sexual abuse by friends or guardians, he or she must act.  If someone brings a suspicion to that person’s attention, he or she must act.  That school authority cannot protect the teacher, coach, or counselor who may be a friend.  The school official cannot protect the suspected person’s children from scandal.  Students who terrorize or brutalize each other cannot be spared as well.  Playing favorites on such an important issue cannot be tolerated.  The endangered student must be the priority.  Those school officials in Ohio should be removed from their positions and stripped of their licenses.  Some should even face jail time.  

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