It’s all a matter of trust.
Right now the LA Unified Schools are in the cross hairs of a very high profile abusive teacher sex scandal where a number of children were allegedly methodically victimized at two schools and maybe more.
Some parents cry they can no longer trust the school administration to protect their children. Some parents cry even more loudly that they don’t want innocent teachers separated from their profession or the needy children they teach.
Teachers are running the gamut of emotions and opinions. Teacher associations feel they have a mandate to protect the profession and the innocent. And, there are many more sides to this heartbreaking story which have played and replayed for decades in America where there is no federal abusive teacher data base and recidivist abusers have often been kicked from one school system to another with a, “we won’t tell if you don’t tell” wink by those in positions of power.
So what is the right thing to do? How will the courts play Solomon and not actually cut the baby in half both metaphorically and maybe literally?
One decision is an easy one to make when trying to save the reputation of teacher’s associations, school systems, legal factions, parent and children rights advocates — always err on the side of the student … politics and liability be damned. Get the kids away from a potentially dangerous person or situation immediately until you are as sure as you can be that the situation or location is as safe as you can make it.
Be decisive. The gesture of protecting kids at all costs may cause short term legal and political heartburn but eventually the strengthening of a safe system will save credibility, legal bills and, oh yes, lives. Think of history, think of precedent, think of the message you are sending to deter the future perpetrator and encourage the whistleblower (history shows a whistleblowing culture eventually cuts back on crisis situations and the following litigation along with the horrible public relations that comes with the cases in question). Think of the strengthening of bonds with all the stakeholders and, in the case of teacher’s associations, the buy-in of the vast majority of your teacher membership.
Our sources tell us most teachers have no idea of the back room deals that may be made to hide abusive teachers by administrations or unions. When making reputation decisions, those administrators or association board members and managers should always act in a way that will please their eventual “consumer” – in this case that consumer would be elected officials, regulators, voters, parents, students, other teachers. So, first protect the children … that is a position you can build upon. Prudent transparency is the best policy as trust and credibility will eventually mean approval of better new wage contracts, approval for bills or laws you want passed, better results concerning fair benefits packages, etc. How will those kinds of public approvals or contract negotiations go if you cover up misdeeds or are not proactively transparent when you can be? You know the answer and it is not a good one.
Think of your priorities and action plan progression as any good manager would think of solving a business problem. If your intended result is to ultimately protect the student, then work backward from that outcome and find ways to get there. Cover-ups and indecision will not get you there. Do the right thing morally, ethically and for all your objectives … protect the children, and build on that strong message.