Shhh: Don't Tell
Who's protecting children from sexual abuse on school campuses?
Imagine: You are a journalist.
You are seasoned. You've covered crime scenes, gone undercover to places you shouldn't, met presidents and a lot of weird shit in between. You are still haunted by the charred baby you saw carried out of a house fire. You still laugh about the strippers you met in Memphis while gathering information For a story.
You leave the city during a pandemic to the rural part of your state where your ancestors settled 150 years ago.
Then you start to hear disturbing tales every place you go. Tales of pedophilia. Boys. Girls. A cesspool of sexual deviance in public schools.
Those very schools that pride themselves on their wholesome image and hide behind their positive hashtags. Those hotspots for Friday Night Lights. Those towns with Main Streets that, with a bit of set decorations and Hollywood magic, could easily become settings for a Hallmark Christmas movie.
You ask: What's being done to protect these kids?
These are the kids in public schools with administrators paid six-figure salaries to provide an education and to protect them with your tax dollars. Sickening.
This level of abuse didn't just happen yesterday. It's not just one or two allegations. Perhaps a secret investigation is occurring and something will happen. Soon? Maybe?
Often nothing happens. Some stories you hear happened a few years ago. Some longer. Yet, many are much more recent.
The stories. Oh, the stories. A male choir teacher sexting male students through Snapchat all across South Arkansas. Another one. A male coach who purchased cell phones to communicate with his victims and hook up all over town. The male music teacher who grooms little girls on long bus rides. The young female teacher who sends explicit text messages to student athletes like she never left high school. The teacher who allows her favorite high school student to sit in her lap at lunch alone in her classroom.
Some get arrested. News outlets cover them. Some are listed as sex offenders. Some receive lesser charges, and because of the way the laws are written, their sex offender profiles aren’t public.
That means they can stand at the edge of a football field on Friday nights and watch the cheerleaders. Been to a high school football game lately? The school dress code for cheerleaders is out the window. Old men in overalls love to sit and watch the cheerleaders jump up and down. So do the creeps.
WTF is happening?
You just assume that mug shots of teachers online and in news articles are the only ones out there. Think again.
You go to the Arkansas Department of Education website to the licensure section. You look. More school personnel listed each month for inappropriate behavior.
Setting the example
Every school has its love affairs. Administrators hookup with teachers. Teachers and parents. Coach on coach. Threesomes. You name it.
In some towns, community members have even addressed the board in open meetings about affairs. Who needs a Netflix series when you live in a small town?
As you root deeper into the backwoods, diners and dirt roads you hear more stories. You ask questions. People shrug as if it's a given, there's someone or many someones having sex on every campus.
“It is what it is,” you hear over and over.
No. It isn't, you think. Set a damn example. Stop the abuse.
You ask people in the community about what superintendents and school boards are doing. In most cases, turning a blind eye.
School boards are governmental bodies. They have the power to stop all of this behavior. Right now. They make policies, but most times policies are simply words on paper. Why don't school boards hold administrators accountable? They hold all the cards to clean up their schools.
For example, most schools have an email system assigning an email address for every staff member and student to communicate that can be monitored. Yet, social media is littered with school employees communicating with students even going so far as to post quasi love letters.
Hello, school boards, do something about all of this.
What about mandated reporting? You wonder. No one wants anything reported. All too often you hear stories about administrators telling parents we've handled it. Don't worry. This is what's best for everyone. Now no one has to be embarrassed.
Coverups create more victims and teach children to accept abuse. Some teachers say enough is enough. They resign, melting down administrators in their resignation letters. Why? Because they write that administrators have ignored the warning signs and failed to report abuse. Those brave enough to speak out are heroes.
Administrators and school boards don't need a bad reputation for their school or town. Protect the image at all costs. After all, they are selling the dream.
Public schools are competing for students in the new world of school choice. They are fighting to gain more students for more tax dollars. More families, more students for the local economy. Build more houses. Sell more houses. More houses. More property taxes. The majority of those taxes go back to the school.
It's a racket
Superintendents and school boards are part of the industrial school complex.
No one wants their schools consolidated because that means losing the heart of their community. When the community loses a school, the property values tank.
Small towns need those Friday nights under the bright lights on half-a-millon dollar turf and $700,000 jumbotrons so no one misses a play or the cheer squad.
For just a few hours, everyone can live in a happy bubble of innocence and dreams of a championship ring.
Never mind what may be happening under the bleachers or on the bus ride home when no one is watching. Or are they? You wonder.
Please keep reading
Editor's note: If you have pictures or screenshots, you must contact your local authorities. If you see something, report it. To report child abuse or neglect in Arkansas, you can call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-482-5964. After you've gone through the proper channels and the system has failed, that's when you contact the media.
Arkansas law requires mandated reporters such as superintendents, teachers, counselors, clergy and more to report suspected abuse to the hotline. Mandated reporters who fail to protect children can face misdemeanor charges and civil liabilities.
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