Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Delaware Protects Abusers

My neighbor Christopher (not his real name) is five years old. All five years have been really difficult. For Christopher, who when born seemed perfectly fine, has had grand mal seizures from infancy. The seizures left him physically and mentally impaired, so much so he now is in a special needs kindergarten class.

His adoring parents will be moving from Wilmington because they do not trust the educational system to take care of Christopher properly. They are worried about possible neglect and abuse.

They have good reason for their concerns, as Pat Maichle, the executive Director of the State of Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council, acknowledges. She has stated children with disabilities are disproportionately victims of abuse, including sexual abuse.

She, along with Tania Culley, the Child Advocate for the State of Delaware, supports State Representative Greg Lavelle’s determined and multiple efforts to allow victims of abuse in public institutions the same redress as those who are abused within private institutions such as private and parochial schools.

Representative Lavelle has on four separate occasions introduced legislation that would give the 125,000 children in Delaware’s public school system the same redress as is presently afforded to children who attend private institutions. Four times he has been shot down, and Delaware’s children continue to be unprotected from sexual predators.

Evidently not one to give up, Representative Lavelle has introduced yet another bill aimed at leveling the playing field, HB 12, which also seeks to waive the state’s sovereign immunity in child sex abuse cases.

Lavelle stated, concerning a previous attempt, “This bill is about doing what is fair and just for all victims of childhood sexual abuse in Delaware. Under Senate Bill 29, victims who were abused in the private and nonprofit sectors…have had access to recover damages. Yet children abused while attending a public school in the state…are not granted the same legal access. To say that those victims are at an unfair disadvantage would be an understatement.


The question arises: Just why is it that abuse in public schools goes unaddressed? Why are public school teachers immune to the sort of prosecution we have routinely seen doled out to pedophiles within private and parochial schools? After all, millions have been given out to victims of abuse within private schools, witness the case of John M. Vai, who was awarded $30 million in compensatory damages for abuse which happened at St. Elizabeth’s parochial school.

Perhaps the answer is that the teachers union protects their own.

As James Hudnell pointed out in this eye opening article “Teachers Unions: The Child Molester’s Best Friend” (February 9, 2010), teachers’ unions in states like California and New York have coddled criminals within the school system for years.
Hudnell cites an example of such protection.

From a New York Post piece:

“At the beginning of his 32-year career as a math teacher in Queens, Francisco Olivares allegedly impregnated and married a 16-year-old girl he had met when she was a 13-year-old student at his Corona junior high, IS 61, the Post learned.
He sexually molested two 12-year-old pupils a decade later and another student four years after that, the city Department of Education charged. But none of it kept Olivares, 60, from collecting his $94,154 salary.

He hasn’t set foot in a classroom in seven years since beating criminal and disciplinary charges. Chancellor Joel Klein keeps Olivares in a “rubber room,” a district office where teachers accused of misconduct sit all day with nothing to do.

That would be $94K a year for sitting around drinking coffee and reading the paper.”

California is even worse, as accused teachers are paid to stay home.

“About 160 teachers and other staff sit idly in buildings scattered around the sprawling [Los Angeles Unified School District]…the housed are accused…of sexual contact with students…Nearly all are being paid. All told, they collect about $10 million in salaries per year—even as the district is contemplating widespread layoffs of teachers because of a financial shortfall.”

While New York’s infamous “rubber rooms,” where accused teachers sat around all day while collecting full salaries, are now supposedly gone, the fact is that protecting teachers who abuse their students is “a common practice in many states where teachers’ unions hold sway. Then they can’t fire them, in some cases schools have had to offer instructors cash payments to quit.”

Hudnall concludes, “Unions and public sector jobs are the most unholy alliance of our times…and many victims have been left in their destructive wake.”
It surely looks as if Delaware is following in the footsteps of California and New York: Protectionism of the worst sort plus a perversion of law in that some get redress for abuse while others have no recourse at all.

Lavelle’s legislation would rectify the glaring inequities, but continues to languish while strongly opposed by those who are indebted to and protecting the teachers union.

So much for equal justice for all of Delaware’s children.

Who can blame Christopher’s parents for wanting to get out of Delaware?

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