Monday, April 24, 2017

Teacher or Predator

The last several weeks here in Nashville have been blazing stories about the Teacher, Tad Cummings and his student that ended this weekend with the two being apprehended/rescued in a remote cabin in Northern California. I have been utterly sick of the story with the sad Father, "friends" and a brother (one of her nine other siblings) being quoted or interviewed in the local media. There is something predatory about that behavior when disaster hits the media descending on the town and voraciously swallowing anything thrown in their path as if a Twister has gone nuts and dumped endless trash in the road. It is this that I believe contributes to the fake news,\ anti media theme that dominates the discussion about the validity of said media.  Funny, however, when that media is working a crime story and lends itself to help solving it then they are the angels from heaven.

When you read the book Ghettoside you have a better understanding of the double edged sword of the media and how law enforcement itself uses the media as the legs on the ground to help in a convoluted fashion to solve the crime. And in this case the two were caught as Amber Alerts are only State by State not regional as even the Attorney of said family admitted in his press conference the same afternoon  her location was disclosed.   Note: Press Conference.   And of course the national media had no problem relaying the story as she was a young white girl and much like the pretty nurse stabbed in Nashville a couple of months ago, her story and the subsequent air play was largely another reason the killer was caught. The story is secondary, the subject is primary as we have come to learn when the media picks and chooses their byline.

And to provide an example there was a sudden attention to missing DC black girls and then suddenly not. Why well the reality that social media, the demand for equal justice and an over zealous Cop. Well there you go but there are clear disparities when it comes to media attention and those issues regarding race and often sexuality when it comes to framing a story.

So as I continue to be obligated to follow the story I note that as always the media picks and chooses details in which to highlight and which to subvert. The Teacher already under investigation for being seen kissing "a student" (we can assume Elizabeth whose name has now changed per the family informing the media) was still employed on not on leave; the girls mother was also removed from the home due to an allegation of abuse by one of the 10 children she has with the same father who is on the news nightly; and she is now forbidden to even discuss this due to a newly issued restraining order about  the allegation.  And Jesus is being thrown about quite a bit as both savior and in my world more of a cause of the problem.  And in turn more questions about the  legitimacy of said abuse has already been in question in the community itself but not the media who is not in the business of investigating all sides to this very complex story.

 Then we have varying family members and "friends" discussing the case with the media, but not the friend who dropped the girl off that night with a caution about not being back home by 6. Why has that girl not been paraded in front of a camera? Or the endless failures to find them despite the fact that they did not hide their names and checked into a motel using their ID? Really?

And lastly why is the girl not home and instead at some undisclosed location supposedly  for therapy? I find all of this odd and one can see why many who hear of children and later allegations of abuse arise they are quick to dismiss them or suppress them. And none greater than the most recent at Choate. Again I suspect that as this a school that serves the wealthy elite it is front page story. But if you have seen Spotlight you know the very paper that broke the story also earlier suppressed the story for the same reasons they would highlight it. The Catholic Church's role of import in the community and in turn the larger effect.

Since the Times story the other schools involved are seeking information. Yes digging up a decade worth of dirt takes time. But why was it not dealt with immediately. By the year 2000 we were fairly sophisticated on the issue of child molestation and while, yes, I began teaching in the 90s and the laws were clear about age and sexual contact so call it pedophilia or call it rape it was still illegal. And it was then came the Mary Kay Letourneau story and that threw it all in the blender. And they are together to this day. Go figure. I find it personally repugnant and sad for them both.

I have been around kids for a long time. I started teaching at age 35 so the oldest kids were still nearly 15 years younger than me. The idea of hanging out with them then and now is so repugnant that I can't imagine why you would go out of your way to do so unless required by the school. Recently, I spoke with a young Teacher who said she started her career in a high school realized that at 24 she was too young, the kids were too close in age to respect her and that the boundaries one needs to establish respect and discipline were not going to happen so she went to elementary. That was astute observation and while I have at my age had many attractive and intelligent kids that seem wise beyond their years I see them as kids. Okay I have seen some of my kids a decade later but I think that is much like parents it is an odd experience to recognize that transition without still seeing them as the kid they were versus the adult they are now. But it is nice to see them regardless. Run away with them no.

I don't know what this man was thinking but in my day MaryKay was not the first woman I heard of marrying a former student and sure enough I ended up subbing for Teacher was also involved with a current student. I recall that class vividly and the way the boys spoke at the time in provocative adult like manner I did find odd but given Garfield High School and the history of weirdness at that school over the years I took no notice. Nor did I with the drawer full of condoms. I assumed they were there for any number of reasons and truly I am not in the business of accusing people as kids do that regularly. So you see the Catch 22 there when it comes to actually believing the accuser.

It is the odd line to cross and to have a child confess to you about such is another position I would not wish to be in. I recall when a student told me of her rape by a date and that was enough. I like kids, I like Teaching but I am not a Priest in the good sense nor a Therapist. And without the safety net of legal protections I do not want children telling me anything other than where they left their homework.

And as I read the article below I have many questions about the Teachers, their history and background and can anyone recall them other than the Students? I find the investigation lacking in detail and why I don't doubt the veracity of the claims it has been decades and one cannot hide this type of behavior from those around them or why were there no other Teachers, either formerly employees or even current ones willing to step forward with recollections, memories or concerns.

I am exhausted reading about Educators and Students. I am exhausted reading about rape and assault between individuals of authority and their underlings. I am exhausted reading and writing about what it means to be a woman and how it feels to feel alone and afraid every time one meets a man. It is exhausting.

This Cummings moron should go to jail and that should be the end of the story. I don't want a Lifetime Movie, I don't want an exclusive interview with the girl and I don't want to hear about this again. But this is what presses as news. A troubled young girl and an equally troubled sick man will be another headline soon enough. In the meantime step up sexual education, step up therapy and counseling and access to Social Workers and others to be involved in Schools so both Teachers and Students have the opportunity to get the help they need from one in the place to provide it.

And as in any case I want schools, colleges and businesses to stop handling this in house. For both the accused and the accuser they need to know and experience first hand the system and what that means so that it will end any false premises or history of nothing happening to remind those of what it truly means to be a part of a system that is less about protection and more about harm.

Ousted Over Sexual Misconduct Claims, and On to the Next Teaching Job


For many years, when teachers at private schools were forced out over claims of sexual misconduct, administrators let the accused quietly move on to teach elsewhere. The pattern was so common it earned its own grim moniker: “passing the trash.”

A report released this month by Choate Rosemary Hall, an elite Connecticut boarding school, is filled with instances of men who had been accused of sexually abusing students, yet were allowed to keep teaching. Now accusations have emerged that two of the men may have abused students at other schools.

Two women have come forward to accuse one former teacher, Frederic Lyman — who was forced to leave Choate over claims of sexual misconduct in 1982 — of inappropriate behavior while he was on the faculty at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., before he came to Choate.

After leaving Choate with a recommendation, he got a job at a school in Colorado, Kent Denver.

Officials at The Gunnery, another boarding school in Connecticut, say they are investigating a possible instance of misconduct by another teacher, Jaime Rivera-Murillo.

He taught at The Gunnery before he went to Choate. Mr. Rivera was accused of raping a Choate student in 1999, according to that school’s report, and was fired.

Like Mr. Lyman, Mr. Rivera moved on to teach again — in this case at public schools, leaving Choate off his résumé.

Mr. Lyman did not respond to multiple attempts to contact him. Through a lawyer, he declined to speak with Choate’s investigators at the firm Covington & Burling, the report said. Mr. Rivera did not respond to phone calls or a request for comment through his lawyer. He told Choate’s investigators that he drank with his students the night of the alleged assault that let to his dismissal, but denied any sexual misconduct.

Mr. Lyman spent two years at Choate, from 1980 to 1982. He is accused of having sexually abused two students, having sex with them in his apartment, in his car and on a school trip, and of eventually giving at least one of them herpes, according to investigators. The Choate report said that his behavior had been discovered and that he had been forced to resign.

But now two women have come forward to raise troubling questions about his behavior before he arrived at Choate, when he was at Andover.

One woman approached the school with a report about him, which was passed along to a law firm the school employs to “fully investigate her concerns,” a spokeswoman for Andover said in an email. Andover declined to provide details on the allegations.

A second woman, who attended Andover’s summer session in 1980, brought her account to The New York Times. That woman spoke on the condition of anonymity as a victim of sexual misconduct.

The woman said that Mr. Lyman had given her alcohol, and that they had held hands and walked with their arms around each other. He tried to kiss her. She had been flattered that her teacher had taken an interest in her, she said. On a group camping trip, the student woke up in the middle of the night to find Mr. Lyman kissing and stroking her arms. She said she had pretended to be asleep.

“It would have been so easy for things to happen, but I drew the line,” she said.

“He groomed them,” she said of young women at Choate with whom Mr. Lyman is said to have engaged in sexual relationships. “And if I had been with him for longer, he may have groomed me, too. I was only there for six weeks.”

Andover said that Mr. Lyman was a teaching fellow at the school during the 1978-79 academic year, and that he taught at the summer session in 1979. A spokeswoman said that because the school had “limited records” of who taught at summer sessions during that time, it could neither confirm nor deny that he was on the faculty during the summer of 1980.

Jan Thomas, a spokeswoman for Kent Denver, said Thursday that the school had no knowledge of Mr. Lyman’s issues at Choate until contacted by a reporter last week, and that there was no evidence that he had engaged in “physically inappropriate” behavior at Kent Denver, she said. He left the school, and education, in 1984, after two years at the Colorado school.

Then, on Friday, Rand Harrington, the head of school at Kent Denver, sent an email about Mr. Lyman and sexual abuse to members of the school community, including alumni. The school received a response that evening, Ms. Thomas said, but she would not say whether Mr. Lyman was the subject of the response, citing confidentiality.

Five states, including Connecticut, have enacted “pass the trash” bills that aim to keep teachers who commit abuse from cycling to other schools. Some of these laws prohibit school districts from entering into agreements with abusers that may suppress information about sexual misconduct, for example, or they might require applicants to disclose if they were ever the subject of a sexual misconduct investigation, unless the charges were proved false.

“Some schools were doing the exact same thing that the Catholic Church did if they had an abuser in their midst,” said Jetta Bernier, the executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, a nonprofit advocacy group, and a member of an “educator sexual misconduct” task force convened by two private-school organizations. “It’s the same human dynamic. If we just get rid of him, it’ll be O.K.”

In Connecticut, educators have been required to report any allegations of sexual abuse to the state authorities since 1967. But Choate made no reports until 2010, even when it forced teachers out.

Mr. Lyman left Choate with a letter of recommendation. The dean of faculty at Choate, Charles Twichell, who is now dead, wrote the letter, in which he described Mr. Lyman’s “easy familiarity with students.”

Mr. Twichell also appears to have provided a phone reference for Mr. Lyman and was able to skirt any difficult questions about Mr. Lyman. The Choate report describes handwritten notes by Mr. Twichell dated April 19, 1982, that described a 10-minute conversation: “He asked good questions, which I could answer without any except very mild cautions about ‘distance.’”

In 1999, while on a school trip to Costa Rica, according to the Choate report, Mr. Rivera is said to have grabbed the breasts of one student, and raped another student in a pool. The school’s dean of students was immediately dispatched to Costa Rica; Mr. Rivera was recalled to Choate and fired within days.

Choate administrators did not report the allegations about Mr. Rivera’s behavior to the authorities, leaving him free to work in education again because no red flags were placed in his record.

By 2000, Mr. Rivera was again teaching, this time at Henry Abbott Technical High School, a public school in Danbury, Conn. The state said it no longer had his original résumé on file, but when he applied for a supervisory position in 2003, Choate was not on it, though he did list another private school where he had taught, The Gunnery in Washington, Conn.

On Saturday, The Gunnery sent an email to alumni and parents alerting them to an allegation it received about Mr. Rivera “during his employment at The Gunnery in the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 school years.” The message went on, “We are moving quickly to investigate this allegation and determine the facts around the circumstances of his departure to Choate.”

When asked whether Mr. Rivera had received a letter of recommendation from The Gunnery, Ken Mason, a spokesman for the school, declined to comment beyond the emailed statement.

Mr. Rivera went on to work in public schools in Connecticut and New York, becoming principal of Wamogo Regional High School in Litchfield, Conn., at the beginning of this school year. Regional School District 6 provided Mr. Rivera’s résumé to The Times at The Times’s request. The earliest teaching job Mr. Rivera listed was at Henry Abbott Technical High School, where, he said, he started in 2001.

None of the schools where he worked after Choate say they have received complaints against him.

Edward Drapp, the superintendent, said the district had run the required background check, which includes fingerprinting, and called people beyond those Mr. Rivera had listed as references. But the hiring committee, made up of 12 people, found nothing.

A letter Mr. Drapp sent out to the community this month said Choate’s investigator had contacted the district’s lawyer on April 5 to say that witnesses had corroborated the allegations against Mr. Rivera. He resigned from Wamogo the next day.

“Choate put us in the middle of something we should not have been in the middle of,” Mr. Drapp said.

“I don’t think there’s anything more we could have done to have found out the nature of the allegations or that they were out there,” he continued. “The system is only as good as the people using it.”

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