Or is it? If you read the News-Leader, watch local television news or listen to the aptly-named Cracker Barrel radio show, you already know about the Rountree Elementary molestation case. (Actually, I'm only guessing local talk radio is having a hayday with this one - haven't tuned in.) There was also some new information in Chatter regarding the Monday arrest of a male physical education teacher from Rountree.
The News-Leader and KSPR33 News were eager to stir the pot with this story. I understand KSPR, despite the fact that the teacher had yet to be charged, couldn't resist releasing his name and airing his mugshot to their meager audience. Meanwhile, cub reporters from the N-L newsroom were leaving messages on Rountree parent phones, begging for "any kind of information" on the case. No wonder a local teachers group, in a letter to members, has characterized the media handling of this case (and the alleged abuse case at Bissett Elementary) as a media-driven "public lynching".
The fact is, the suspect was arrested on Monday and released without charges on Tuesday, yet in that one twenty-four hour period, his teaching career hit the wall, regardless of guilt or innocence.
In a letter sent to Hickory Hills parents, where the suspect also taught elementary PE, superintendent Norm Ridder assured parents that R-12 will "make every effort to insure that students . . . are safe and that the district's personnel treat our students in a safe and appropriate manner." He referred any questions to the building principal at Hickory. It is interesting to note that a similar letter to Rountree parents referred inquiries to an administrator instead of the current building principal. My guess is that the Rountree principal is perhaps in hot water for violating the mandated reporter law.
As a school teacher, I can tell you first hand that the wrath of one irate parent can literally bring everyone - administrators, psychologists, counselors, lawyers - to the table for some excruciatingly meaningless breast-beating. Some parents will stop at nothing, short of actually caring for their children on a daily basis, to demonstrate their undying love. There isn't an experienced teacher out there who hasn't been stretched through the ringer by an irrational parent. This is the flip side of teaching that doesn't make the front page.
I once spent a ridiculously wasteful two weeks attending meetings trying to calm down the parents of a boy who claimed I had made a joke about his dog's death while he was absent (but somehow no other student in attendance heard anything). I wrote in this space last summer of the special ed teacher who was nearly run over on the sidewalk by an angry mother behind the wheel. I recently attended a parent/teacher meeting where a black mom strenuously objected to the fact that her daughter's white teacher looked at her too much during a class discussion of Black History Week. I could go on.
SPD says their investigators have identified six victims of molestation at Rountree. If that's true, it's hard to believe that many kids could be fabricating everything. Rountree parents will hold a closed meeting with police officials on Monday to learn more about the ongoing SPD investigation.
Of course, all this comes at a time when R-12 is trying to muster support for a school bond issue. Great timing.
Oh, and welcome to Springfield, Dr. Ridder.