Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Criminal Past.....

Settle down, I haven't really BEEN a criminal in my past. I've just known a few. And I don't count my brother, whom I don't consider a real criminal in spite of the fact that he did time in the "semi-big house." He was just mischievous and the victim of rotten luck. Besides, he's my brother.

There was a guy most of us had a crush on in the seventh and eighth grades. He came to our county in one of those years, and of course every girl fell for the new guy. I wasn't one of the pretty and popular ones, so I never had a chance with him, but man did I think he was cute. By the time we were sophomores and I was marching in the band, we always ran into Reid at Six Flags Over Georgia on the day they allowed us to escape from band camp right before school started. It seems his reform school took their inmates to Six Flags on the same day every year. We didn't think it at all odd that we kept bumping into Reid at Six Flags, and he didn't seem a bit embarrassed that he was there with his reform school and we were there with the marching band. Five years after I graduated, a young woman was murdered on the UGA campus, and it was all over the news. Then a friend from high school called saying that it was Reid who had murdered her. I brushed it off as just some of her high-strung histrionics (is that redundant?), because I had heard the name on television and it wasn't Reid. I didn't know he had a different first name, and Reid was his middle name. He is now serving a life sentence; I don't know how he escaped the death penalty. I can't even bring a picture of his face up in my mind anymore.

Then there was a couple we used to go camping with in my first wifetime. Our daughters were born 5 months apart, and both their first and last names both began with the letters "Br". It was quite alliterative. We were very close to this couple. We slept in the same tent for goodness' sake. One night he and I both slept in the same BOAT because we couldn't stand my ex's snoring. We were at the lake every single weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and we only stopped then because the campground closed and football season started. I do have my priorities. After I divorced baby daddy, having lost custody of most of the friends, I ran into the wife of that couple one time at the mall. She said they had divorced and that Mark was in prison for child molestation. I could have bent down and picked my jaw up off the floor. It wasn't their daughter, it was her SON from a previous marriage who was the victim of the molestation. Oh, and some neighborhood kids who had been invited to the party too. Sadly, if he hadn't involved the other kids, he probably would have gotten away with it. I don't think his stepson would ever have told on him. Mark was sentenced to five years and I'm guessing he didn't do all of that time. I see him from time to time because he works at one of the local motorcycle dealers. I feel so icky seeing him. On one hand he paid his debt to society and deserves (maybe?) to be forgiven, but on the other hand.... KIDS!???!!! His defense at the time of his arrest was that there was "no penetration." Apparently he just allowed the young boys to touch HIM. Gross. I'm so glad he's NOT the one I bought my motorcycle from.

The last (I hope) criminal I've been acquainted with was also a high-profile case. He was a renowned educator whose students wrote many books about their boarding school experiences in the mountains of North Georgia, and he wanted to come to the city where I was teaching to see if his methods could be applied to inner-city-type students. But he was also committed to a great deal of travel and public speaking, so he couldn't take on a class on his own. Therefore he was paired with me and we team-taught one ninth grade class. He was very likable and incredibly intelligent. He was in great demand as a speaker, and he always took students with him. He would take them on out-of-town trips, and it really was an educational experience for them. But for some reason I started getting bad vibes about him.

He didn't do anything overt to make my alarms go off. I felt guilty even thinking poorly of him. But when one of my (male) students, a very gentle ninth grade boy, began talking about the possibility of traveling to a conference in Hawai'i -- HAWAI'I!!!! -- with the teacher over the summer, I had to say something. I first went to my department head, also a male teacher, who was a little puzzled at my worry. He didn't question it, per se, but he kept asking me what made me think there was anything wrong, and I couldn't tell him.

Then rumors started floating around, and my department head and I decided that although they weren't substantiated, it might not be a good idea (ya think?) for him to take a student on an out-of-town trip. My department head suggested I talk to the principal about my concerns. This is the same guy who had chewed me out about the girl on my yearbook staff on the first day of school. I went to him immediately because school was about to be out for the summer, and I wanted something documented before we left. I told him my concerns, and he sat there thinking for a few minutes. Finally he said, "Tell _____ to give me a call."

Excuse me?

I have just reported a concern about a possible child molester to my principal, as I am required by law to do, and he suggests that I ask the potential molester to give him a call?

I left his office and thought to myself, "Screw you, buddy. I've done what I was supposed to do."

I was going to call the young man's parents, even though I didn't have the tiniest bit of evidence, but there was no way I could allow that man to take a male student to Hawai'i.

The matter was taken out of my hands, however, when he was arrested for molesting a different male student, one of the elementary school students he was also working with in our town. The story blew up in a huge way because of his fame and the past success of both him and his students, and it was all over the news for days. The most disturbing finding for me personally was that he had been guilty of these acts for at least the 25 years he had worked in our state.


His. Students. Protected. Him.

That was how much they loved him. Even his victims remained silent about their abuse at his hands because they didn't want him to get in trouble. I just looked him up, and he is living in Florida as a registered sex offender. Gives me the heebie jeebies just looking at his picture.

When the story broke on the news, the first person at my door was my department head. "How did you know?" he asked me. He was in awe. And all I could say was "I don't know."

Do you think I ever heard a word out of the principal? You must be kidding me.

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