How Schools Might Quell Child AbuseSexual abuse of our...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 27, 1994

How Schools Might Quell Child Abuse

Sexual abuse of our young students by teachers in the public and private classrooms of Maryland, as evidenced by recent and current court cases, is a major problem requiring much greater and pressing attention. A former Anne Arundel County teacher, Ronald Price, has commenced serving a 26-year prison term for student sexual abuse. Another long-time teacher in both public and parochial schools, John Merzbacher Jr., faces sexual abuse charges alleged to have occurred over many years.

Officials, both private and public, at all levels of our educational system -- from pre-school to postgraduate institutions, from elementary school principals to city, county, and state boards of education, and officials of universities which educate would-be teachers must give greater attention to proper moral conduct of educators. The "I don't know, therefore I'm not responsible" attitude of some educators must quickly come to an end.

I was educated in state universities and have been a teacher for 19 years -- one year in a parochial middle school and 18 years as a teacher in public middle and high schools. Based on my education and years as a teacher, I strongly suggest that three actions need to be considered without undue delay:

* The selection of teachers, in both public and private arenas, should be greatly improved. . . . Parents and the general public today would be shocked to know how little is done by many personnel offices in investigating potential teacher and administrator professional qualifications and their backgrounds, including moral character and practices. . . . We must insist that persons chosen to teach our children have character beyond reproach and at least as high as our state police and members of the legal and medical communities. . . . All too often, we are discovering, an educator can escape a problem by simply moving to another state, county or locale and likely avoiding on their resume the real reason for moving.

* School administrators, offices of superintendents of schools and school boards should be more directly concerned with, and involved in, sexual abuse problems within their spheres of jurisdiction. These officials must be held accountable for transfers of problem teachers to another school within and outside of their system.

* Consideration should be given to the appointment of a trained group of educators within each system and independent of local school-based administrators. This group, based along the lines of the U.S. Armed Forces Inspector General's office, would be directly responsible to investigate and report sexual abuse accusations within its system directly to the local superintendent.

Bureaucratic complacency must immediately be replaced with a sense of activism. . . . We must quickly begin to deal with this serious crisis before more children are confronted with immoral and illegal behavior on the part of educational systems that seem, at times, more interested in avoidance than action.

Robert Alan Handy

Bel Air

Clinton's Proposals on Education and Crime

I, like many Americans, listened to President Bill Clinton's State of the Union address. As a student, I asked myself, "How is what he is saying going to benefit me?" The answer, which many might not have noticed, dealt with one piece of legislation. It is entitled the Goals 2000: Educate America Act (House Bill 1804 and Senate Bill 846).

This program is an attempt to improve methods and standards of teaching and learning by providing a national framework for education reform. Its aspects include a 90 percent graduation increase; tested competency in English, mathematics, science, foreign language, civics and government, arts, history and geography, and availability of continued programs for improvement of professional skills for teachers. Other objectives include making the U.S. first in mathematics and science;

ensuring 100 percent adult literacy, and ridding America's schools of drugs and violence while offering a disciplined environment conducive to learning.

"We must give our young people something to say 'yes' to." Well, Mr. Clinton and America's adults, I am a young person, the future, and I am saying "yes" to the Goals 2000: Educate America Act.

Victoria Italiano

Baldwin

I am writing regarding President Clinton's State of the Union address dealing with the crime issue. President Clinton had many good ideas for change such as hiring more police officers, expanding upon the Brady Law and using more money for drug treatment. But, when he said, "When you commit a third violent crime, you will be put away, and put away for good -- three strikes and you are out," I moved to the Republican side. I guess you could call me a fair-weather Democrat, but I have no tolerance for giving hardened criminals another opportunity to practice their trade.

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