Pedophiles in the School System
Posted by shadmia on October 24, 2007
Suspected pedophile Christopher Paul Neil, 32, was a regular poster to an online forum for teachers (Korean Job Discussion Forums) and he posted more than 300 messages under the pseudonym “Peter Jackson.” In one instance cited, Jackson allegedly discussed how to delay or skirt police background checks needed for some teaching jobs.
“Police checks are NOT needed to get a visa. Public schools will want one, but you should be able to stall them. Often they want teachers SO quickly that they will ‘wait’ for some things. I never gave a police check for my last public school job. I was in Vietnam at the time, and getting one wasn’t easy. I delayed and never heard about it again.”
Neil, a Canadian national, had worked in the school systems of Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam since 2000. Previously he worked in Catholic schools as a volunteer instructor and substitute teacher in various parts of British Columbia, Canada. Neil had much experience in the school systems of Canada and Asia. He was arrested in Thailand accused of having sex with a dozen different boys between the ages of 6 and 12.
Investigations into sex offenses by educators in the American school system show that there is a systemic problem in dealing with these individuals. One report mandated by Congress 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 sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade. That figure includes verbal harassment that’s sexual in nature.
“From my own experience — this could get me in trouble — I think every single school district in the nation has at least one perpetrator. At least one,” says Mary Jo McGrath, a California lawyer who has spent 30 years investigating abuse and misconduct in schools. “It doesn’t matter if it’s urban or rural or suburban.”
A seven month investigation by the Associated Press found that between 2001 and 2005, more than 2,500 educators were disciplined for sexual misconduct. This however does not tell the full story. Most of the abuse never gets reported. Those cases reported often end with no action. Cases investigated sometimes can’t be proven, and many abusers have several victims. And no one — not the schools, not the courts, not the state or federal governments — has found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms. The overwhelming majority of cases involved teachers in public schools. Private school teachers rarely turn up because many are not required to have a teaching license and, even when they have one, disciplinary actions are typically handled within the school.
The investigation also found efforts to stop individual offenders but, overall, a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse. It starts in school hallways, where fellow teachers look away or feel powerless to help. School administrators make behind-the-scenes deals to avoid lawsuits and other trouble. And in state capitals and Congress, lawmakers shy from tough state punishments or any cohesive national policy for fear of disparaging a vital profession. That only enables rogue teachers, and puts kids who aren’t likely to be believed in a tough spot.
Take the case of Jennah Bramow. As an 8-year-old she was molested by her elementary school teacher Gary C. Lindsey:
The young teacher hung his head, avoiding eye contact. Yes, he had touched a fifth-grader’s breast during recess. “I guess it was just lust of the flesh,” he told his boss. That got Gary C. Lindsey fired from his first teaching job in Oelwein, Iowa. But it didn’t end his career. He taught for decades in Illinois and Iowa, fending off at least a half-dozen more abuse accusations.
When he finally surrendered his teaching license in 2004 — 40 years after that first little girl came forward — it wasn’t a principal or a state agency that ended his career. It was one persistent victim – Jennah Bramow – and her parents.
As an 8-year-old elementary-school student, Bramow told how Lindsey forced her hand on what she called his “pee-pee.”
“How did you know it was his pee-pee?” an interviewer at St. Luke’s Child Protection Center in Cedar Rapids asked Jennah in a videotape, taken in 1995.
“‘Cause I felt something?” said Jennah, then a fidgety girl with long, dark hair.
“How did it feel?” the investigator asked.
“Bumpy,” Jennah replied. She drew a picture that showed how Lindsey made her touch him on the zipper area of his pants.
Lindsey, now 68, refused multiple requests for an interview. “It never occurs to you people that some people don’t want their past opened back up,” he said when an AP reporter approached him at his home outside Cedar Rapids and asked questions.
That past, according to evidence presented in the Bramow’s civil case, included accusations from students and parents along with reprimands from principals that were filed away, explained away and ultimately ignored until 1995, when accusations from Bramow and two other girls forced his early retirement. Even then, he kept his teaching license until the Bramows took the case public and filed a complaint with the state…..it was 40 years after his first conviction (and many more abuses later) that he lost his license to teach!
Like Lindsey, the perpetrators that the AP found are everyday educators — teachers, school psychologists, principals and superintendents among them. They’re often popular and recognized for excellence and, in nearly nine out of 10 cases, they’re male. While some abused students in school, others were cited for sexual misconduct after hours that didn’t necessarily involve a kid from their classes, such as viewing or distributing child pornography.
— Joseph E. Hayes, a former principal in East St. Louis, Ill. DNA evidence in a civil case determined that he impregnated a 14-year-old student. Never charged criminally, his license was suspended in 2003. He has ignored an order to surrender it permanently.
— Donald M. Landrum, a high school teacher in Polk County, N.C. His bosses warned him not to meet with female students behind closed doors. They put a glass window in his office door, but Landrum papered over it. Police later found pornography and condoms in his office and alleged that he was about to have sex with a female student. His license was revoked in 2005.
— Rebecca A. Boicelli, a former teacher in Redwood City, Calif. She conceived a child with a 16-year-old former student then went on maternity leave in 2004 while police investigated. She was hired to teach in a nearby school district; board members said police hadn’t told them about the investigation.
The abuse itself is one thing but the after effects on the child can be long term. Sometimes the abuse is reported long after the crime occurred as in the case of an 11-year-old girl who didn’t tell her parents about being sexually abused by her music teacher, Robert Sperlik Jr., until she was 15-years-old. At the time she and some of her friends wrote a note to a teacher complaining about him . The teacher investigated, spoke to Sperlik, some of the parents, and decided nothing inappropriate happened. It wasn’t until her mother got the entire story from the girl – four years later -that Robert Sperlik Jr. was arrested, convicted and sentenced to a 20-year prison term.
However, having to go through a grueling trial, was more than the girl could bear and eventually she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after she took sleeping pills. She was upset that Sperlik hadn’t gotten more prison time. After coming home they found her a counselor who specializes in sexual abuse. She is mending slowly. Her father found a book she had been reading and read a passage that she had underlined:
“You forget some things, don’t you,” it reads. “Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”
Two of the nation’s major teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, each denounced sex abuse while emphasizing that educators’ rights also must be taken into account.
“Students must be protected from sexual predators and abuse, and teachers must be protected from false accusations,” said NEA President Reg Weaver, who refused to be interviewed and instead released a two-paragraph statement.
The real problem is how do we identify pedophiles, not just in the school system but in society in general, and quickly remove them from any environment where they can come into contact and abuse the most vulnerable ones among us – The children.