Last week, Steven R. Battles, a former elementary school teacher in Springfield, IL was sentenced to seven years in prison for sexually abusing one of his former students. He was first charged in February, 2011 for the abuse that took place between 1999 and 2002.
The Battles case is typical. There is nothing remarkable about it. It could be used as a case study of why our public school system has become a safe haven for pedophiles like him. The only thing unusual about his case is that he got caught. Most don’t.
Charol Shakeshaft, a professor of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University, has spent her career studying our educational system. In 2004 she authored a report, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, which focused on the sexual exploitation of children by teachers. Although the findings were shocking, it didn’t get much attention. What little it got, didn’t last.
The report was issued in the midst of the furor over revelations about the sexual abuse of children by priests and the orchestrated cover-up by their bishops, so maybe her revelations simply were drowned out. According to Dr. Shakeshaft the sexual abuse of students in public schools was “100 times greater than the abuse by priests.” Additionally, Shakeshaft reported that 9.6 per cent of children are sexually abused by educators sometime during their school years. The media was largely silent about these small details.
Public ignorance about the details and scope of this problem have contributed to its persistence and even to its growth. Ignorance is never good. Moreover, educators and school officials have been as active in covering up the problem, if not more so, as the Catholic hierarchy has been in covering up the problem of pedophile priests. At least the Catholic Church has disclosed not just convictions, but also accusations. In the case of schools, secrecy prevails even after charges have been filed.
Battles was known to be a problem for years before he was finally dismissed by the Springfield School District in 2009. It was an internal investigation commenced in 2005 by the school district that finally led to his dismissal. He promptly appealed that dismissal, with the help of his union. The dismissal was still under appeal when he was arrested two years later.
For almost his entire 17 year career, Battles engaged in inappropriate behavior with children under his care and most likely abused more than a few of them. Complaints about him triggered several transfers to other schools. He drew criticism for sitting next to children and putting his arm around them, giving them back rubs, talking to them about sexual situations—his own and the children’s, he gave money—as much as $50—to some male students as birthday gifts. These are classic grooming behaviors, but when called to task by officials, Battles was defiant and was able to maintain the backing of his union enablers.
After Battles was arrested, he had the unbelievable audacity to file a defamation suit against his accusers. That case was sealed (as was the criminal case) by the judges involved in order to “protect” the victims. The civil case reportedly was secretly dismissed about a year ago. (There are better ways to protect victims without resorting to Star Chamber justice.)
Depraved teachers like Battles, impotent school officials, indifferent union functionaries and the uninformed public collectively have created a school system that is unsafe for children. More and more rules have been put into place with little effect other than to make the system absolutely hostile. Good teachers can’t even comfort a crying child or celebrate with them using any physical touch. This is wrong.
When it comes to the safety of our children union rules that protect teachers must be made null and void. Clearly observed grooming behaviors, violations of rules intended for the safety of the children, teachers who flaunt their promiscuity, or who watch pornography on school property, should be dismissed immediately. Only the virtuous should be allowed the privilege to teach. The secrecy surrounding accusations against teachers needs to be lifted. And administrators need to grow a spine.
Most of all, the ignorance about this issue should end. The public has to become fully informed and retake control of our schools. Only they can hold the school boards, administrators and teachers to account.
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10 thoughts on “Public Schools – Unsafe for Any Child”
Back in the sixties my high school provided me with in home tutoring for a period of three months during a bout with Epstein Barr disease.
I still remember my shock and embarrassment when the history tutor’s hand habitually attempted to rub my leg under the dining room table. After speeding through the coursework , I pleaded with my widowed mother not to allow him to take me to the circus when he offered the reward studious ambitious efforts to complete the work quickly. Instead,she thought it would be nice to invite him to dinner. I thwarted that idea when I had a sudden loss of stamina in recovery.
Three decades later , while speaking with the home schooling mother of two girls , the eldest of which she enrolled in my former high school Alma mater, she relayed her daughter’s observations concerning the very same high school history teacher.
“The girls all know he likes to look up their dresses if they sit in the front rows” and , ” He is married now to another teacher after he impregnated her.”
Obviously, her children felt no compunction against speaking their thoughts and fears freely to their parents.
Thinking back , I wondered why it was I was so afraid to report any of my fright to my mother regarding the same teacher.
Have society’s norms changed for the better in this regard?
Do children realize now it is not their fault if a sexual predator makes advances, even if he is a well respected educator?
I certainly hope so. But I am still perplexed that after all the years of this kind of well known behavior why has the school administration not been able to put an end to it?
Tenure and fear of Union employment litigation.?
That’s part of it. The biggest problem is public ignorance about child sexual abuse and about how to recognize the difference the good teachers and the predators.
Well, almost three decades later and given my friend’s daughter’s comments about the same teacher I had once had, the female students considered him a “Perv” . I wonder if the same terminology to a teen , applies to the more sophisticated definition of “Predator”?
It seems to me the first hurdle is jumped when students feel comfortable enough to tell their parents about the actions of a teacher which make them uncomfortable, rather than in some way feeling they will be blamed or dubbed a liar.
So, at least we know some gap is breached by encouraging dialogue between parents and their children on the subject.
The question remains as to how the focus of predatory risk is assessed and dealt with by school hiring administrators .
Does it begin and end with fingerprinting? Or, is there some other way for employers to effectively handle risk before a crime is committed?
It seems to me that the lines become blurred with just the he said she said evidence and teachers now are so forewarned concerning litigation that in many classrooms they are afraid to even put a hand a child for guidance purposes i.e. breaking up an altercation between students, pulling a student back into line etcetera.
In some grade schools schools only another student is allowed to accompany a child to the bathroom.
An overview of identifying predators is in my earlier post on “Profiling Predators.” That post is part of a series of nine more that will explain how to distinguish between predatory and protective character traits.
Thankyou for pointing this out , I be will be sure to go back and read more closely and send along to others who have not had as much experience on the subject.
I noted they could also be considered a trait guide for young women when considering marriage .
An incidental I learned tonight from my thirty something daughter re: ‘Teachers’.
She has a Psychology Degree included in her higher education coursework and was out tonight with a group of friends. The majority of them are teachers in both middle and high schools .
Without exception,”….. they all complained and dread returning to their jobs after summer break .”
I asked why aside from just vacation time being over and the main reason given and agreed upon by all was that ,”The kids are literally all out of control as are most of their parents.”
All work in public schools , but one male math teacher worked in a parochial high school nearby and quit to go into healthcare.
His complaints were similar but more specific in that he included students having,”…. smeared feces on and into unlocked lockers and all over the walls of the lavatories.”
Genuinely good teachers are really struggling, but he will find that altruistic medical personnel are too.
We all recognize there has been a breakdown in the family for several generations. First through divorce and/or both parents out of the home working,now exascerbated by the generalized economic strains of unemployment and underemployment.
I think one has to go back to your article on pornography as one real root to the proliferation of sexual perversions , addictions and child abuse, not to exclude a hidden reason for an increase in divorce.
In addition, the leaders in the global economy are playing a bigger role covertly promoting these activities than most people realize.
“But Spain is just getting a jump on European Union (EU) policy overall. The European System of Accounts has recommended for years that all its 28 members states include the illegal economy in GNP, but in 2016, member states will be required to do so. Eurostat, the EU’s official statistical agency has issued draft technical advice on how to calculate the “value” of such criminal activities, recommending that the figure for prostitution (to be included under “services”) be calculated from approximating the “supply” side, and the drug trade from the “demand” side.”
I wonder how many parents in the future will even want to identify sexual predation since everything and anything, even what once was considered criminal sexual acts of perversion, are becoming legitamized through new laws and regulations?
Seems It all plays into population control advocation plans.
Eventually it will seem emotionally AND financially easier for people to just not have any offspring at all …if it doesn’t already.
I am sick of the hackneyed “News” blurbs of statistical reports on just how much it costs to raise a child today!
What is it that ancient pagan Rome espoused before it’s total collapse? To distract the populace with? ‘Bread and Circus’
Translation now……’Drugs and Sex’, is better for the GDP / GNP to distract from a declining middle class economy!
This makes a lot of sense Uncle Tom – after working in the school system I’ve seen a lot of teachers that have questionable methods with students and have very eerie demeanours . But you’re right when saying it’s made it difficult for the virtuous teachers with good intentions to comfort a child without being able to put a hand on a should or give a comforting hug.
I’m sure you are a great teacher and I hope that conditions in schools will change for the better throughout your career. I’m proud of you for your work in Equador.
Someone just sent me these videos.
As a Catholic I can only pray that some Bishops, including the ‘Bishop of Rome’, might take this man’s bold approach to the reality of Truth also.
” Only Fools Don’t Judge”