New report of cover-up, enabling ... in public schools

Unless you’re a daily reader of USA Today, you probably missed a story that should have received a lot more attention: 

“Registered sex offenders are getting jobs in schools as teachers, administrators, volunteers and contractors, despite state laws that prohibit them from contact with children, a government watchdog report says. 

“And school officials in some states enable misconduct to continue by ignoring red flags during hiring or by covering up the firing of sexual offenders, according to the report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.” 

The newspaper tracked down the report, which is limited to reviewing just 15 cases in a dozen states in the last decade. But some of the tales are horrifying, and, for anyone who’s followed the clerical sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, sickeningly familiar. 

How about this example: “A teacher/coach who was forced to resign from an Ohio school because of inappropriate contact with girls was hired by a neighboring district, where he was eventually convicted for sexual battery against a sixth-grade girl. The superintendent at his first school had called him an ‘outstanding teacher’ in a recommendation letter.” 

Maybe The New York Times didn’t cover this story because they got scooped by a competitor. Or maybe they figured it was a non-story, because ever since an Associated Press investigation three years ago, it has been no secret that between 6 and 10 percent of public school children across the country have been sexually abused or harassed by school staff. 

As the USA Today story notes: “An Education Department study estimates that millions of kids in kindergarten through 12th grade are victims of sexual misconduct by a school employee at some point. The GAO report also notes most sexual abuse of children goes unreported. In one study it cites, 232 child molesters admitted to molesting a total of 17,000 victims, often without ever being caught.” 

So, why am I bringing this sordid news before your eyes? Certainly not to downplay the scandal of child-abusing priests by pointing out that other sectors of society have it worse. We all agree that even one abusing priest is unacceptably too many. 

No, the point is that there appears to be increasing justification to believe that the mainstream media’s focus on the Church scandal was more outrage (and delight at?) uncovering hypocrisy rather than the fact of child abuse. Otherwise, one would expect that rampant sexual abuse of children in our nation’s educational institutions — and cover-ups and teacher transfers by administrators — would get a lot more media attention, and demands for reform. 

And yet, nothing. As far as I can tell, the 620-word USA Story did not get picked up anywhere else. 

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