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TACOMA: Questions need to be answered about teacher abuse

Letter by Colin Guthrie, Puyallup on July 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm with 15 Comments »
July 18, 2012 3:35 pm

Re: “Stadium High conspiracy uncovered!” (online letter, 7-19).

In a Your Voice article (TNT, 7-19), Chris Britt asks why the Tacoma School District avoids the issue of sexual abuse of students by staff and doesn’t answer specific questions that he (and I) want answered. On the other hand, the letter writer feels Britt’s allegations against school staff are ridiculous.

Britt was told that the district has a boundary invasion policy. However it depends on reports of behaviors that most people consider appropriate. According to the policy, teachers can only interact with students in an educational form, through the curriculum or approved school function. The policy prohibits interactions between students and staff if they are neighbors; when teachers and students run into each other in a local business; and discussing any personal issue between staff and students.

The boundary invasion policy does not identify why people are sexually aroused when they are with children. That, I feel, the letter writer needs to realize.

Leave a comment Comments → 15
  1. alindasue says:

    I also feel it is also harder to identify when students have been abused – by a teacher or otherwise – because the “boundary invasion policy” prevents teachers from getting to know their students well enough to recognize when their behavior might indicate a problem.

    I can understand the prohibition against problem behaviors like tickling and the more than cursory hug… but when a teacher is not even allowed to talk to students outside the curriculum or interact at all even in the neighborhood – all normal behaviors by any other standard – even healthy student-teacher relationships end up being stifled. (Yet… the policy doesn’t seem to make any progress in stopping the unhealthy abusive relationships from happening.)

  2. cclngthr says:

    Alindasue,

    This is one point where we agree. I think the boundary invasion policy does stifle normal human interaction; and also makes it easier to put directives in personnel files of employees which makes it easier to fire them.. Remember the directive Sean Lanigan got?

    However, the unusual sexual arousal is not identified by the policy which we need to use to identify people who are prone to rape kids.

  3. BigSwingingRichard says:

    A discussion of boundary issues policy is missing the point.

    One point of the Britt column was how can it be that a teacher and a school security guard can have sex with students at school without anyone knowing about it and what type and degree of lax management allows this to occur?

    What everyone should be demanding to know is what changes is the district willing to imposed to prevent on premises child/teacher sex in the future?

    The parents and the community expect and deserve an answer from the school district.

    Does everyone have their head in the sand in the Tacoma School district, or do they just place it there when questioned?

    Police are required to submit to a polygraph when requested and if they refuse they can automatically be fired. Given the history and frequency of adults in the district having sex with students, it is about time this standard is imposed into the next series of labor contracts in Tacoma and if you do not like this, then see you later.

    Let’s see if the teacher union is willing to defend the existence of child rape on campuses and to refuse measures to prevent it.

    The potential threat of a polygraph may cause everyone to report child rape suspicions immediately.

    However, this polygraph policy would require the district to reverse it’s unstated policy of placing the interests of adults above the kids.

  4. cclngthr says:

    BigSwingingRichard,

    The issues of the boundary invasion issues is they are often seen, but not reported upon. It is fairly clear and easy to recognize when a student has been molested; however it is often dismissed by staff and no further action is taken because people assume the adult cannot be the one doing it (particularly one who they know).

    A lot of people also dismiss such cases as unfounded when teenagers are the victims. They may be sexually active already, but also do have issues when a person has sex with them when it is legally wrong to do so.

    I think the boundary invasion policies are unneeded; what is needed are exams which identify when a person becomes sexually aroused when they are around kids. These do involve polygraph tests, but also tests that delve into the psycho-sexual issues a person has.

  5. alindasue says:

    BigSwingingRichard,

    Even if polygraph tests were considered a reliable means of discerning the truth, they are not necessarily going to weed out sexual deviants and abusers any better than the background checks and fingerprinting that teachers (and volunteers) already have to go through. You speak of police officers being required to submit to the tests – yet, abusers still manage to exist in the police force.

    The best way to overcome the deviants that exist in all factions of our society is to develop healthy relationships between people and allow a sense of community to form. Just as getting to know and watch out for neighbors in the community can cut down on the crime in a neighborhood, allowing healthy student-teacher relationships (which the boundary policies do not allow for) allows the teachers to know what is normal behavior for a student and makes it easier for them to recognize when a student is upset about something or a fellow teacher is behaving in a way that is out of the norm. There is not so much of the teachers vs. students mentality when they are all allowed to be part of the same community.

    By the way, I don’t think it is necessary to explain the difference between a healthy student-teacher relationship and an unhealthy one. Anyone here that cannot figure out the difference… those are the people we should really be concerned about.

  6. cclngthr says:

    alindasue,
    If I see a student who, to me is having a problem with something, I should be allowed not only ask what is going on, but be available for them to come to me with something. This may mean interacting with students in the lunchroom at times, or interacting with them outside of class time, saying hi to them when we see each other, (including off campus) and interacting with their family in a supportive manner.

    What I agree with in Richard’s comment is there are ways to spot deviants by asking them questions that are about sexual behaviors, and testing them whether they are sexually aroused when they are around children. This means testing that male teacher whether he has penile activity when he is around kids. Same with the female. Is she aroused when she is around kids? Why are they doing that?

    All the boundary invasion policy does is it assumes certain behaviors that are often considered normal are involved in sexual deviancy. It assumes that talking/interacting with students beyond class time is a sexual matter.

  7. alindasue says:

    cclngthr said, “It assumes that talking/interacting with students beyond class time is a sexual matter.”

    That is why I have major issues with the boundary invasion policy. The only “good” that comes from it is that it exposes the OSPI bureaucrats themselves as being overly preoccupied with sexual behavior.

    Rape is not always a crime of sexual arousal. Sometimes it is strictly a crime of violence and abusive control. The same can be said for child molestation. Tests for “penile activity” and whether a woman is “aroused” is not going to weed out the deviants any more than a simple psychological interview would.

    It might end up with a few “false positives” though. I’m sure many a high school teacher has had a student the he or she has found attractive, even if only for a moment. That is normal sexual behavior. Deviant behavior is acting on that attraction and encouraging the situation to go further. Most teachers won’t.

  8. cclngthr says:

    alindasue,
    The boundary invasion policy was not created by OSPI. Although they jumped on the bandwagon, the actual people who proposed it was Art Jarvis of TSD and a law firm in Renton.

    http://www.thenewstribune.com/2008/01/14/v-printerfriendly/254196/teacher-conduct-laws-sought-by.html

    ^^ is an article from the TNT about the creation of the policy, which started with TSD in January 2008.

    http://www.nsba.org/TEMP/SbnArchive/2009/January-2009/Legal-Ease-School-Law-Notes-.html

    ^^ is a national article to the school board association regarding what the boundary invasion policy is supposed to do. Notice, it includes all kinds of hugging.

  9. alindasue says:

    Art Jarvis… that explains much.

  10. the questions need to be settled = but not in public.

  11. cclngthr says:

    xring,
    I think the questions should be answered IN PUBLIC where everyone will see and have the opportunity to respond to them.

    As an educator, I need to know answers to these questions, which I likely will present to parents of students I work with. I want parents not only aware of the issue, but have knowledge of what the schools plan is so they can talk to their children about it and have the opportunity to also question the district in its plan on stopping teacher predators from being hired in the first place.

    alindasue,

    I feel teachers should be able to control sexual urges particularly if they are around kids, and if they have attractive students, they should be able to eliminate that notion before it begins.

  12. cc – the results of the investiagtion suould be made public, but the investigation should not be carried out in public, and not in the public media.

  13. cclngthr says:

    xring,

    The investigation of this matter should be public because what the district plans to do affects the students, and taxpayers. Transparency here is the main goal.

    When the district first instituted the boundary invasion policy back in Janary of 2008, I questioned whether this would even work. What it has done is affect how teachers and students interact, often prohibiting normal behavior. Additionally, being a teacher in the district, I have seen where certain teachers are allowed to cross the boundaries now prohibited by the policy, where their children attend the very same school they teach at; and it is assumed the children’s friends are the teachers own students. Other teachers are reported when certain staff members feel the boundaries are crossed. Who gets reported is not the same for everyone. I call this favoritism.

    If I see a student who has a problem, my first instinct is to go to that student and politely inquire why they are upset. This is NORMAL BEHAVIOR. The policy NOW requires me not to go to that student to help them, but automatically assume the child is being abused, which a mandatory report by me to CPS is a requirement.

    Young kids often go to a teacher to hug them. This is now prohibited.

    Does this policy prevent sexual assaults? No it does not. It does not identify sexual predatory teachers. It assumes normal behaviors is predatory.

  14. You would prefer the roman method where guilt or innocence was determined at a public hearing and the winner was the side that could muster the most supporters and/ or pain the highest bribes to the most people.

  15. cclngthr says:

    xring,
    Policies which determine guilt or innocence should be public and held in that matter where people are able to discuss what consists of proper behavior. If a policy (such as the boundary invasion policy) assumes a person is guilty by exhibiting normal behavior, maybe that is not what we need. A policy which determines when people are acting on desires which are abnormal, based on what that particular persons idea of sexual activity is, should be in place rather than the boundary invasion policy.

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