We’ve made clear on numerous occasions that “education” is hardly a reason to send children off to school, especially a traditional public school. However, as we discussed in the last blog post, bullying is another great reason to keep them home. Unfortunately, the inability to deliver quality education and rampant bullying are just the tip of the iceberg. Other reasons to consider keeping your children out of traditional schools run the gamut from emotional development to dietary issues to strengthening family bonds to allowing your child to develop expertise in something they are passionate about. Each reason, on its own, is sufficient to convince me to opt out of traditional schools. And a reason that trumps them all for many parents is the fact that there are sexual predators in the schools, and I’m not referring to other students.
There are the sexual predators that don’t cross the line to physical abuse (not that it makes it any more palatable), such as the Washington science teacher who is accused of using a hidden camera to look up the skirts of his female students. There is the Iowa principal who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for secretly videotaping dozens of male students using the bathroom. Not only was he found to have captured images of the genitals of at least 59 boys aged 5 to 11, but he had a child pornography library of 32,000 images and 12,000 videos. Also from Iowa, there is the sixth grade teacher who used the internet to solicit sex from what he believed was a 14-year-old girl. There is the Illinois teacher who was quickly fired (only because he was at a private school) for masturbating in class. And in an audacious act, a kindergarten teacher in Maine was arrested after a parent complained that he ordered a student to dress up in a French maid’s costume and took pictures of her. He was later sentenced to prison for 16 years after admitting to producing child pornography involving four children in his class.
The stories of teachers that cross the line to physical abuse, sadly, are not that rare. In the past month I have come across stories of an Ohio teacher convicted of having sex with five of her students and of an Arizona teacher who groped two girls, ages 11 and 12. What is most disconcerting about the latter story is the reaction from the parents in the video. One parent declares that she simply cannot believe the story, and another declares that he is sure the teacher will be cleared of the charges (not because teachers get away with abuse all the time, but because he seemingly assumes the teacher is innocent). Sadly, their reactions are not unusual. The problem with traditional schools, especially public schools, is that parents place far too much trust in those institutions. Just because the state takes your money away from you under the threat of force, and then tells you that you have to send your kids to school (you don’t) that you’re already paying for, does not mean they should be given automatic reverence and trust. After all, it was a public school in Missouri that forced a raped girl to apologize to her attacker.
These outrageous stories are not one off examples. Sexual misconduct is a reality that parents need to face head on. In a report mandated by Congress, it was 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 by the time they graduate. Nearly 1 out of 10 students being the victim of sexual misconduct is not a statistical aberration, it is the sad reality that children’s lives are being altered or destroyed at school. To be fair, sexual predators do not reside only in schools – the cases of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State University and Bernie Fine at Syracuse University highlight that fact. Children can be assaulted by extended family, friends of the family, neighbors, coaches and people with badges and guns. However, it is at school that children are placed in a clearly subordinate position to proclaimed authority figures, second only to policemen for most children. And it is at school that children are held captive by those authority figures for about seven hours a day, 180 days a year. While 9 out of 10 children make it through the school system without becoming the victim of sexual misconduct, it is simply irresponsible for an informed parent to assume it won’t happen to their child.