On the one hand, kids shouldn’t have to be snitches, and I don’t like the idea of junior secret agents monitoring adults around them.
On the other hand, some adults need to be monitored, since grown-up institutions seem to look the other way when their members are continuously awful.
That was the case in a Rhode Island school, where students took it upon themselves to document the unpleasant behavior of one of their teachers.
As sixth graders, the students thought their teacher at Davisville Middle School was a creep.
They saw him leering at some girls, singling them out with pet nicknames, encouraging them to dance for him. They saw him treating boys with contempt, and sometimes cruelty.
The teacher, who was also a coach and involved with extra-curricular activities, told the students that he’d weathered parents’ complaints for nearly 30 years, and there was nothing anyone could do to him.
By seventh grade, some of the boys had started taking notes, documenting what the teacher was saying and doing, particularly to the girls, at the school.
In an exclusive interview with The Boston Globe, one of the boys described how in January 2021, he and his friends decided to start their “Pedo Database,” to track the teacher’s words and actions.
They had tried talking to adults about what they heard and saw. None of the adults listened or took them seriously, the student told the Globe. It made the boys uncomfortable to see the girls in their class struggling to deal with their teacher flirting with them.
Again, on the one hand…I had a math teacher in junior high who was exuberant, loud, overweight, and sweaty, who loved show tunes and would sometimes start belting out Ethel Merman songs in class. He was regarded with suspicion by some in the administration, and some of the students — not the ones who were any good at math, or even took his class — started an ugly whisper campaign. He treated students with respect and had high expectations for them. I thought he was just a terrific teacher, memorably enthusiastic. He got me doing geometry for fun.
Again, on the other hand…there were two coaches in high school who were abominable creeps, urging the boys to tell stories about the girls who would ‘put out’, leering at girls outside of the gym, making revolting jokes about them. They were pure misogynistic bullies. No one complained about them, most of the guys were terrified by them (or worshipped them).
I worry about a culture that targets misfits — it could go very wrong very fast. But the RI situation is different. The teacher was a creep, and the kids were later found to have been right about him.
And then, in late April 2022, the teacher was escorted out of the middle school.
Interim Superintendent Michael Waterman announced that he had placed a teacher on leave and was launching an investigation into allegations that the teacher had stalked a pre-teen girl at the middle school while he was her coach, and had been inappropriate with other girls.
The accusations were made by lawyer Timothy J. Conlon, who is representing the girl’s family and is also representing former athletes at North Kingstown High School who have accused former coach Aaron Thomas of conducting naked “fat tests” on teenage athletes.
Of course he was a coach. There are no staff more privileged at a typical American school than the coaches. It sounds like they got good evidence of directly harmful behavior by the coach, which is how this ought to work — a Discord list maintained by a bunch of students shouldn’t be definitive, except as supporting evidence that he was an obnoxious jerk.
Man, I wish my high school coaches had gotten what they deserved. But instead, my excellent math teacher was the one who lost his job — no, he didn’t do anything wrong, other than to annoy small town bigots.
This was just my experience, and it was 45+ years ago, but…
My excellent math teacher my last two years in high school was also the football coach. He was organized, knew his shit, his methods were sound, and his expectations were always clear and fair.
The teacher I remember flirting with the girls in class taught photography and was the yearbook advisor. The teacher who got fired for inappropriate relations with a student was the band director.
I know it doesn’t prove anything, and in fact the biggest jerk/bully teacher at the school was a coach who taught gym class. The only openly racist teacher taught health class. We students all knew it and tried not to get stuck with him.
He was originally from one of the southern states.
Different time, different place, but sometimes the stereotypes play out stereotypically and sometimes they don’t.
Went to high school in the 1950s. The coaches also taught the “health” classes—total waste.
For some reason, in swimming classes the boys were required to swim nude. I found it embarrassing and humiliating. The swimming coach made a point of undressing in front of the assembled class. I thought it was weird and creepy at the time. But kids usually accept things as they are—immutable. I wasn’t aware of any complaints from parents (including mine) or students.
I’ve believed since grade school that the whole country is run by coaches, or that mentality. I still think so.
UnknownEric the Apostate says
The basketball coach at my high school was also the biology teacher. One time, just before class, one of my sillier classmates took the penis off the “visible man” model and put it back on upside down. It took the coach/teacher THREE MONTHS to notice.
https://www.edweek.org/education/colo-teachers-rush-to-report-abuse-charges/1990/02 Mr. Teubner was indeed a coach, and he was arrested years later. It is interesting to see the charges against the principal and other administrators for failing to report this. I remember the principal and assistant principal listed in the article. Terrible or incompetent would both be good words for them.
It makes me wonder about some of the other teacher/coaches I had. Some were just terrible teachers. I remember a history teacher that just slowly read us the text book during class, and then the tests were fill in the blank from sentences right out of the book (multiple-choice).
It’s depressing to realize that this hasn’t really gotten any better.
John Morales says
Will always be the case, because given that motive, such people seek the means and the opportunity.
Coaching youngsters provides both.
Raging Bee says
…one of my sillier classmates took the penis off the “visible man” model and put it back on upside down. It took the coach/teacher THREE MONTHS to notice.
Or, maybe he noticed it right away, but it took him three months to find a tactful way of talking about it without sounding gay; or it was that long before something happened that finally forced him to admit he’d seen it.
PZ Myers says
#4: One of the worst teachers I ever had was in a creative writing class in junior high. He just told us we had to write a journal, I think it was 20 pages a week. That was it. That was the class.
The real insult, though, was that after we turned it in each week we got to watch him “grade” our work. He’d sit at the front of the room with a rubber stamp that had an eye on it, and he’d flip through the pages stamping them. That was all he did.
I hated that lazy worthless motherfucker.
From the OP
“kids shouldn’t have to be snitches”
I agree wholeheartedly. They shouldn’t HAVE to.
When the interim superintendent stated that a teacher had been put on unpaid leave, literally everyone knew who it was. (“Oh, it’s Creepy Pedo Teacher, right?” Or functionally similar statements.)
Parents, apparently from multiple school districts had complained about this guy. Inexplicably, he kept getting hired at new school districts.
Did literally no one do any due diligence at all on this guy before sending him a letter that said “you’re hired”?
Parents at his current (so to speak) school district complained about him.
“The teacher, who was also a coach and involved with extra-curricular activities, told the students that he’d weathered parents’ complaints for nearly 30 years, and there was nothing anyone could do to him.”
So… parents and kids are complaining, apparently fairly frequently, about Creepy Teacher–in multiple school districts no less–and yet not one single teacher ever said anything, never saw anything? No student ever confided in a teacher or school counselor, said “this guy makes me feel uncomfortable” and no faculty or staff member ever thought to keep an eye on this guy, to see if there was anything to the kid or parent’s complaint? Not a single one? EVER?
Do they all buy their eyewear and/or masks from The Fantasticks?
That is one giant blackboard Wall of Silence.
Especially from mandated reporters, which is what most teachers are.
““I don’t think there was a single adult who would ever — like their parents, my mom, like anybody in the school — who had ever really taken the whole thing seriously before””
That is the saddest sentence I’ve read in a long time. Maybe all those PSAs don’t need to tell kids to “tell a trusted adult” so much as they need to tell adults “shut up and listen”.
I don’t know what’s worse–the fact that the creepy pedophile teacher was able to keep on keeping on while being gainfully employed as a teacher and coach for thirty years or the fact that all the adults in these kids’ lives normalized the fuck out of this creepy shit and trivialized the kids’ lived experiences.
Imagine being in the sixth, seventh or eighth grade and being forced to go to school every day, being forced to be around this creep, in the full awareness that no adult is coming to your rescue or will believe anything you say.
I had some really great teachers in public school. One of my favorites was my AP biology teacher, who was always straight with us. He told us that he wasn’t going to teach for the AP test, but if we were determined to take it, he would help us and coach us for the test, but also told us that he felt that taking the AP test would only hurt us in the long run. His reasoning was “if you do well on the AP test, your college/university may not allow you to take the intro bio class and kick you straight to second semester, which is a problem b/c while all colleges teach more or less the same material, they don’t necessarily teach it in the same order, so you may have trouble with the second semester material. If you do poorly on the AP test, it will only hurt your college chances.” He taught us how to write term papers and research papers, how use use centrifuges, how to pipette, how to make agar plates, etc. In my freshmen intro bio class of 40 students, I was literally the only student who had ever even seen the lab equipment, much less knew how to use it. There were some truly outstanding teachers in my school district, teacher who spent their own money on supplies for us, teachers who gave generously of their time and talents.
There was also the teacher who always stood too close to students, was constantly touching or massaging (unwanted!) students. Another teacher (male) who would literally pull seventh and eighth grade girls onto his lap–in class, openly, publicly–who was also the same teacher whose desk collapsed one day because the large drawer in his desk was literally filled with two years worth of porn magazines–Penthouse and Playboy, mostly–which spilled out over the front half of the classroom.
Nothing ever happened to either of them.
Years later, when some seventh grade boys complained to their parents, who made a formal (legal) complaint against the creepy massaging teacher and the former students of said teacher came out and said, individually and collectively, “those kids aren’t lying”–nothing happened. The “solution” was to kick the offending teacher up to a higher grade in the school district. Where the kids would meet him again in high school. The teacher’s current students were ignored and the former students of the teacher–now twenty something adults–were also ignored and minimized.
Not one of those teachers in my school district, including the ones who cared, the ones who went the extra mile for kids, ever said anything against either of those teachers.
There is no way they couldn’t have known. Especially about porno teacher. (One of the other teachers literally had to help him clean up the magazines and fix the desk.)
They still said nothing.
““You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” –William Wilberforce