Thursday, January 25, 2018

We're In the News Again

January 25, 2018

We started the day with an unplanned faculty meeting.  Our school's in the news again, and it's not good.  Our new principal has had to deal with a lot of negative press this year, and has had to put out a lot of fires.  Personally, I think he's doing a great job with communication and trying to stay ahead of the situations that affect us all.  He probably knew this was part of the job, at least intellectually so, but perhaps didn't plan on it being a non-stop barrage this year.  It isn't every year--this is just his lucky year.  Today's issue had to do with a negative op-ed published in the local paper about a couple of our former students who were accused of sexual assault at an off-campus party two years ago when they were minors.  Now that the boys are no longer minors (and no longer attend our school), there is a civil suit against them.  Since they are now adults, their names and details of the civil suit are being publicly released.  This is terrible; if the boys are guilty, then I fully support the consequences they reap.  However, the op-ed is calling out the school and the boys' coaches for not kicking them off of their team and out of school.  The frustrating thing is that the court cases of minors are often sealed, as was the case here.  The public, and the school administration, are not privy to the information in those sealed documents.  How can the school or district be called on to take action based on allegations when they do not have the jurisdiction to conduct the investigation or to be given a judge's final verdict? It's a difficult position schools are in when they are called upon to protect the privacy of students, are not given access to criminal cases for students in their charge, and are charged with protecting and supporting victims of those crimes.  As is often the case with these emotionally charged issues the op-ed chose details that were purposefully incendiary and pointedly left out other details--and it worked.  Our coaches and administrators are getting hateful mail and angry responses.  Our principal had to call our meeting in order to share with us what he is allowed to share legally, and that he and the district administrators are working with police in this current case, and that they are supporting the coaches who followed the protocols in place for the aspects of the case over which they had jurisdiction and knowledge.  I have seen numerous posts on social media, many of them reposted by former students and community members.  And while I understand the frustration about these allegations, I really don't think most people understand a lot of the parameters with which our administrators have to work--and that they don't always have all the information that people think they have in hindsight.  Are there mistakes?  Are there people who sometimes drop the ball in these cases? Sure.  But do I believe that at least in this case, there was an appropriate protocol followed with the knowledge the school and the coaches had.

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