Friday, May 12, 2006

ROUNTREE ELEMENTARY IS NOT A FREE-FIRE ZONE

Now that a gym teacher and the principal of the Springfield elementary school have been charged in a sex-abuse investigation, there is the usual media fallout.

KSPR, the ABC affiliate, sent a shooter to the school on Friday afternoon, probably hoping for some fresh footage of scampering kids. Note to KSPR: When your shooter sets up on a sidewalk on the school parking lot, don't be surprised when school administrators ask him to leave.

The teacher, Mark Washam, faces four misdemeanor charges of first-degree sexual misconduct and five misdemeanor charges of third-degree assault, according to KYTV:
Investigators think the victims in the case are five girls and one boy, all students at Rountree.

Principal Carolyn Harralson is charged with violating the state’s mandatory reporter law. That law requires people in certain professions to call a state hotline if they suspect or receive a report of possible child abuse. Investigators say Harralson didn’t take seriously the reports about the teacher that were given to her by students and parents.
Many Rountree parents have taken sides; some say there is no way Washam is guilty, and others stand by Harralson as a remarkable administrator.

Darrell Moore, the Greene County prosecutor, says Harralson was told of the allegations and didn't phone them into an anonymous hotline. Moore said that when people don't know if abuse allegations are true, they should go ahead and call the hotline. We don't believe it has to be all or nothing.

8 comments:

MrsThurstonHowell said...

what do you mean by all or nothing?

Ron Davis said...

Lovey: I'm never comfortable when a government official says citizens should report unsubstantiated allegations against fellow citizens to the government.

MrsThurstonHowell said...

You're right-a lot is at stake. When you look at the police investigation including their interviews of the principal there appears to be a pattern of her failure to act. Several times she said she did not know why she did not follow through. That is troubling.

The Spfd schools abuse policy (also posted)is woefully inadequate in my opinion. A comprehensive policy it is not. There are no definitions of the different types of abuse and neglect and no discussion that it could be abuse perpetrated by others besides staff, including parents. There are no step by step procedures for staff to follow. There are no documentation requirements. There are no written requirements (that I could see) for schools to regularly give refresher training to staff to include what can constitute suspected abuse!

Staff need the best training they can get in this area. The policy should specify the consequences for violating the mandated reporter law, but a good, effective policy and procedures should also provide some security for staff both for themselves and for the children they are protecting.

fred said...

Last time I checked, schools were public property, so any media (newspapers, tv, radio, blogs) could go out there. Are you the king of freedom of the press criticizing a station for going to the scene?

Ron Davis said...

fred: No, I'm saying that capturing images of minor children without parental permission -- especially on a story about alleged sex abuse of children -- isn't proper.

John Stone said...

As one who does photography and pissed off the goons at the Federal medical Center for taking photos of the trees in the driveway ... there are a couple of things to consider.

Photos from public property cannot be restricted. Outsides of buildings, bridges, airports or nuke plants are OK. Likewise, if you are in public you have no reasonable expectation of privacy as far as someone taking your photo -- including children.

Where Ron's difficulty probably lies in this one is the caption/story that accompanied the photos. Depending on how it was presented, an argument could be made that the implication was made that the children in the photos were involved in the incident. I think the parents have a fair point to protect their kids from this implication... and there are ways to do it ... up to and including civil penalties.

And a lot more grey areas and nuances about photos left unsaid ...

rj said...

I think Ron is right in this case. As he is in most cases.

Anonymous said...

I was a fifth grader at the year 05-06 (last year) at Rountree Elementary School. I witnessed the sexual harassment as well as the 'good touch bad touch' film. And I know the people that were harassed. They are trustworthy people and just because they are children dosen't mean we cannot belive them. I was called down from my classroom and 'interviewed' by the police. My parents DID recieve a phone call telling them that I was being interviewed. Mark Washam was not what you would call a nice PE teacher. He would 'help' a student do a pushup and it looked kind of like he was touching her breasts and groin (this was in December). I did not think he did it on purpose at the time. Then, after Winter Vacation, a lady from some family violence center came in and showed us a tape about a good touch and a bad touch. After the tape rumors started swirling. When I got out of the audiotorium (where the tape was held) I saw 3 girls rushing to the principals office to report Washam. She didn't belive them. Soon later a girl whos name I shall not mention walked down to the principal and gave her a note telling her about Washam. Sometime after that the police were told, everyone in the Fifth Grade was interviewed and he was charged.
Peace out