Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ethics and values risked in nation's schools by teacher sex abuse,'Greek' life abuses

University of Virginia
Carol Forsloff - .While the controversy continues over the alleged rape incidents at a college fraternity at the University of Virginia, and Rolling Stone's article about a young woman who reported being victimized by a group of fraternity members becomes the centerpiece of the controversy, research has shown that sex abuse is actually prevalent in the nation's educational institutions. How does this risk the nation's ethics and values?

In 2010 a teacher was sitting in jail, as he completed a 14-month sentence for sexual abuse of a teenage girl at a Milwaukie high school.  Another teacher, at the same time, was facing allegations of sexual abuse in the same school.

Christopher John Klitgord declared he was guilty of having sex with a teenage female student several times during the periods November 2008 until March 2009. He pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree sexual abuse and was consequently sentenced to 14 months in prison according to reports from Portland Oregonian that has covered this case. The sex abuse took place while the girl was attending Milwaukie High School. 
At the same time Portland media reported another teacher at Milwaukie High School accused of sex abuse with an underage student.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2009 took a look at the problem of sexual involvement of teachers with minor students. The article, entitled "Dirty Secrets: Why sexually abusive teachers aren't stopped" examines the problem in some detail, focusing on 727 cases across the U.S. that involved teachers losing their licenses for having sex with students. 

They found what they underline are some disturbing national trends:
The number of teachers who have lost their right to teach following sex offenses with students has increased 80% since 1994. In spiite of this, former bosses "pass along the trash" by not reporting this to prospective new employers. Several teachers were only caught after they had been molesting students for many years. A study of these cases found states vary in how aggressively they pursue detection and removal of sexual predators from the classroom. 

Barriers to finding and charging teachers with sex abuse include the fact they are represented by unions and can file numerous appeals, allowing them to continue to teach. A breakdown of communication between state authorities and public schools is also responsible for the practice of sexual abuse of students to continue for long periods of time before the predator is caught.

Some people believe there is a virtual epidemic of sex abuse occurring in the nation's schools, because of the problems cited in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Part of this has to do with how judges view sex with minors, especially when it is a female teacher and a male student. 

Pamela Diehl-Mooe, age 43, pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of a 13-year-old male student in Hackensack, New Jersey, according to an article in World Daily News. The judge was quoted as saying ,"I really don't see the harm that was done here, "and certainly society doesn't need to be worried. I do not believe she is a sexual predator. It's just something between two people that clicked beyond the teacher-student relationship."

This 2006 court statement provoked the article's author to wonder if there isn't an epidemic of sexual abuse with teachers involving students. The author reviews the case of Mary Kay Letourneau who was involved with an under-age student, Vili Fualaau. and had two children by him. She served seven years in prison, unlike Diehl-Moore, who only got five months probation. The article goes on to say how Letourneau had a fine wedding, took lots of pictures and a video, then sold them to television programs for six figures so no one worries about how the whole "romance" began.

Judges' attitudes, society's laxity, and the perception of sex between minors and adults as acceptable in some quarters are said to spell trouble in getting the public to recognize the seriousness of the crime of sex abuse in the nation's schools.

While the World Daily News has a religious orientation for its article, it does support the Post-Gazette's concerns as well. The incidents at a Milwaukie High School underline how serious abuse in the public schools has become.

But what is the status of the nation's colleges?  The fact that students have more independence and distance from parents and other support and often need group support means there are more temptations to become involved in harmful activities that involve drinking and sex.  For example, after a basketball game some University of Connecticut students overturned cars and rioted, leading to 30 arrests.  Although the majority of fans were peaceful in their celebrations, nevertheless the behavior was not highlighted by the press in the same manner as the minority of protesters involved in rioting following the incidents of police abuses in Cleveland, New York and Missouri.  Again the social perception of student chaos has often been submerged and avoiding media spotlight, even as victim's claims of rape may be discounted or questioned severely, especially when they involve fraternities and sororities who often wield considerable influence in the communities where they reside.

And as for the professor-student relationship, because many students are othe legal age of consent the issue of statutory rape is not the same as that for high school and elementary school students having sex with teachers.  Yet it remains the act of a power figure in relationship to a student who is dependent upon the person in authority for grades that can mean pass or fail in college.  This pressure, along with the need to belong and to be desirable and recognized can create an atmosphere for sexual abuse.  Power and sex can go hand in hand in college, and with some individuals and groups can spill over into other areas of society, again risking ethics and values.

Those who belong to sororities and fraternities often end up being more financially successful than those who don't belong to these groups, research has found.  Furthermore most of the nation's leaders have been in these Greek groups.  And they contribute more to college funds and activities than other students and wield more power and influence on campus.

There is a dark side, however, to these organizations.  Academic dishonesty and cheating have been found more prevalent among the Greek groups than the general college population.  The members also have higher rates of alcohol abuse and binge drinking as well as higher rates of sexual assault according to numerous research papers on the topic.  Many of these cite the practice of hazing as one that leads to sexual abuse and binge drinking, as well as other activities that can lead to personal crises.

While the University of Virginia continues to sort out the details of the alleged rapes on its campuses that have occurred in fraternities, the socially negative aspects of membership might be assessed by those interested in joining Greek groups.  At the same time, the violation of students by teachers, as another major problem, requires parental guidance during school years, as the vulnerability of students requires oversight, not just of research, school, government and community organizations. Adults closest to the issues can ask the right questions and not turn away from potential problems because their children acquire popularity and prestige from involvement in groups that may be detrimental to the development of appropriate ethics and social values.

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