Associated Press reporters, after a seven-month investigation, were able to identify teachers punished for sexual misconduct -- 2,570 in total, found in every state in the U.S. and Washington, D.C. And that's only between 2001 and 2005; the charges ranged from fondling to viewing child pornography to rape. One case in Berwyn, Ill.:
The teacher, Robert Sperlik Jr., pleaded guilty last year to sexual abuse and kidnapping of more than 20 girls, some as young as 9. Among other things, he told prosecutors that he put rags in the girls' mouths, taped them shut and also bound their hands and feet with duct tape and rope for his own sexual stimulation. According to court documents, he rubbed their inner thighs and shoulders and forced them to sit, while bound, in closets and school storage rooms. At least one girl told prosecutors that when Sperlik stood behind her, she could feel his erect penis on her back ...
Though experts who deal with sexual abuse say victims tell the truth more often than not, the ordeal is often worsened when the community around them is drawn in, and people take sides. Often, victims and their families face uncooperative administrators, disbelieving neighbors and an agonizing legal journey.
One cannot look at this madness without thinking about the predatory-priest scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, which not only resulted in millions of dollars paid out to those harmed but brought to light massive cover-ups and victimization of families. It also resulted in a witch hunt by the Vatican to purge its seminaries of gays -- as if one's sexual orientation has anything to do with being a sexually deviant criminal.
In fact, if we want to go there and paint a whole group of people with one brush, it appears, based on this roundup of predators in education, that heterosexuals shouldn't be able to teach, either.
One report mandated by Congress estimated that as many as 4.5 million students, out of roughly 50 million in American schools, are subject to sexual misconduct by an employee of a school sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade. That figure includes verbal harassment that's sexual in nature.
Oelwein, Iowa -- Gary C. Lindsey was fired from his first teaching job and was bounced around as at least a half-dozen sex abuse accusations mounted, continuing to teach for decades in Illinois and Iowa. When questioned about one incident, he said that he had touched a fifth-grader's breast during recess. "I guess it was just lust of the flesh," he told his boss. A former student who was 8 at the time said Lindsey forced her hand on what she called his "pee-pee."
East St. Louis, Ill. -- Joseph E. Hayes, a former principal, impregnated a 14-year-old student. Despite DNA evidence confirming this, he was never charged criminally; his license was suspended in 2003. He refused an order to surrender his license.
Polk County, N.C. -- Donald M. Landrum, a high school teacher, had been warned by his supervisors not to meet alone with female students; they obviously knew he had a "problem" because they installed a glass window in his office door -- which Landrum promptly papered over. Pornography and condoms were later found in his office by law enforcement, and he was suspected of preparing to have sex with a female student. His license was revoked in 2005.
Redwood City, Calif. -- Not to leave women out of this, former teacher Rebecca A. Boicelli conceived a child with a 16-year-old former student. The incident was investigated while she was on maternity leave, but she was hired by another school district that hadn't been told about Boicelli's case.
What's alarming is the reluctance in some states to do anything about these cases.
While some schools and states have been aggressive about investigating problem teachers and publicizing it when they're found, others were hesitant to share details of cases with the AP -- Alabama and Mississippi among the more resistant. Maine, the only state that gave the AP no disciplinary information, has a law that keeps offending teachers' cases secret.
Meanwhile, the reasons given for punishing hundreds of educators, including many in California, were so vague there was no way to tell why they'd been punished, until further investigation by AP reporters revealed it was sexual misconduct.
And in Hawaii, no educators were disciplined by the state in the five years the AP examined, even though some teachers there were serving sentences for various sex crimes during that time. They technically remained teachers, even behind bars.
Again, no one has called for all heterosexuals to be banned from teaching America's children.
Unfortunately, if you're a law-abiding gay, lesbian or transsexual teacher, there are many places in this country where you can lose your job if a parent or school finds out about your orientation or objects to your gender presentation or identity.
This situation is why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is before the House this week. There has been quite a bit of controversy about which version of ENDA would end up being debated -- one that includes protections for gender identity (H.R. 2015) versus one that provides workplace protections on the basis of sexual orientation only (H.R. 3685). The latter bill has passed committee; Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the only other out gay member of Congress aside from Barney Frank, D-Mass., has submitted an amendment to restore transgender protections. This has been a long road of squabbling and rancor within the LGBT community about political strategy. (You can find plenty of viewpoints and emotion about the past few weeks over at my blog, where regular readers have not held back.)
While the internal family tiff rages on, what is clear is that there has been a mind-boggling disinformation campaign about ENDA by the right-wing religious fringe that borders on hysterical. Imagine substituting the word "heterosexual" where "homosexual" is when you read this diatribe by "Christian" extremist Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth Against Homosexuality.
And please, do not be deceived by those who tell you ENDA is simply a nondiscrimination measure. That argument is a red herring -- an argument designed to shame decent, sensitive and feeling folks into not opposing ENDA.
After all, who wants to be in favor of "discrimination"?
The truth of the matter is: There is NO national epidemic of discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace ... PERIOD! It simply does not exist! The real untold purpose behind the passage of ENDA -- like the so-called hate-crimes legislation before it -- is much more sinister. If passed, how would this vile law work? Simply put, ENDA would force employers with deeply held religious beliefs to hire people they know are committing acts that they consider immoral -- and to hire them precisely because they are committing these acts. The Boy Scouts will be forced to hire homosexual scoutmasters -- even those who flaunt their perverse and obscene appetites! Day-care facilities, adoption agencies and Christian schools will likewise be investigated and targeted for federal prosecution if found to be "discriminating."
Sigh. And that's a tame one.
A long list of companies, large and small, support ENDA as originally written -- with transgender-inclusive language; this fact has unnerved professional anti-LGBT organizations such as the Traditional Values Coalition, headed up by the barely tethered to reality Lou Sheldon. TVC made ludicrous claims that ENDA would require religious organizations to hire pedophiles and multiple "sexual orientations" such as:
apotemnophilia, asphyxophilia, autogeynphilia, bisexual, corprophilia, exhibitionism, fetishism/sexual fetishism, frotteurism, heterosexuality, homosexual, gender identity disorder, gerontosexuality, incest, kleptophilia, klismaphilia, necrophilia, partialism, pedophilia, prostitution, sexual masochism, sexual sadism, telephone scatalogia, toucherism, transgenderism, transsexual, transvestite, transvestic fetishism, urophilia, voyeurism, or zoophilia/bestiality.
Sheldon graphic: Mike Tidmus
Interestingly, the above-mentioned Peter LaBarbera is convinced, through his sources, that the Bush White House is trying to throw the religious right under the bus by allegedly helping to craft ENDA's religious exemptions.
"Americans For Truth has learned that a White House official has boasted to pro-family leaders attending a private administration briefing that White House staffers were involved in the negotiations to craft expanded religious exemption language for the new ENDA bill," according to Peter LaBarbera's Americans For Truth organization.
"At the briefing, the White House official did not commit to the assembled evangelical leaders that the president would veto [ENDA], saying that they will wait to see the bill's final language, according to our source. This is troubling in that vetoing ENDA in any form is regarded as a 'no-brainer' by pro-family activists, who are counting on Bush to stop it," he continued.
It's tough times out there as the fundamentalists raise the level of paranoia in its rabid ranks in order to fill the coffers.