Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Leaning The Wrong Way?

Baby We Were Young - The Dirty Guv'nahs (mp3)

One of the games my girls are loving right now is called “Hardest Game Ever 2.” It’s a series of basic but challenging games that use low-grade humor to keep the amusement factor in play. One of the nastiest involves keeping a sick kid’s gargantuan noggin balanced so that the snot dripping out of his nose doesn’t fall into his food. Like most great games, the outcome is inevitable; eventually the head will tilt, and the snot will fall.

When it comes to the current climate of media and criminal scrutiny -- or lack thereof -- in matters of possibly criminal sex acts between human beings, I often feel like I’m merely tilting the iPad back and forth, trying desperately to keep the snot out of the bowl just a bit longer.

My alma mater (UNC-Chapel Hill) and a slew of other schools are currently in the crosshairs for how they have mishandled accusations of student-on-student sexual harassment and assault. Even as I sympathize with the school administrators and know that these matters are far more complex than reports and protesters seem to think*, what seems undeniable is that there has been too little willingness to investigate, genuinely and intensely -- or at all -- accusations like these.

(* -- News flash: Sometimes being accused and being guilty are not the same. See below.)

To investigate puts a school at the risk of lawsuits from all sides, not to mention matters of bad publicity. But they also are playing the “Hardest Game Ever 2,” trying to balance that kid’s head, yet the snot will inevitably sink into the soup. More often than not these schools are looking out for themselves or the alleged assailant more than the victim. They lean the wrong way.

On the other hand, sometimes the accused are victims, too. There’s the story of Minnesota State at Mankato football coach Todd Hoffner, charged with child pornography for filming his three kids dancing around in his living room after their bath.

At the same time we can count seemingly endless examples of accusations being swept under the rug or hushed into the fog of time, at a time when “Sandusky” and “Horace Mann” have become code for years of predatory abuse by a single person on numerous victims under the conveniently-averted eyes of others, we are witnessing what happens when guilt is pre-determined for the sake of expediency.

Nothing should be more frightening to us, as a society, than our bloodthirsty rush to judge a man** guilty before he has had the chance to defend himself.

(** -- C’mon, it’s almost always men... and a few young blonde women.)

Although Hoffner clearly shouldn’t have recorded this on his work-provided cell phone, it’s also equally clear that what he recorded was not for selling to/sharing with other pervs or for his own jollies. Any parent knows that nekkid kids often make for funny family memories, especially at wedding receptions decades later.

But for recording his kids dancing nekkid post-bath, Hoffner spent a night in jail. He and his family spent untold amounts of money defending him from a ridiculous accusation. A large portion of his town’s citizenry seemed more than eager to condemn him as a monster with little to no information.

Closer to home, a middle school band instructor in Georgia was first fired then criminally charged with child molestation. Unfortunately, North Georgia has developed an almost Salem-like reputation for its ability to find witches in their midst. I cannot speak with certainty to his innocence or guilt, but their prosecutorial axe swings swiftly, wrecklessly and haphazardly. Here’s what I do know, with confidence: untold numbers of coaches in North Georgia have been quietly dismissed from their jobs in the past 20 years for sleeping with their players or other girls at the school. No criminal charges. No revocation of teaching license. Just a hush-hush push out the door and best wishes at the new job, because we won't tell on you, buddy.

In North Georgia, if you possibly touch a middle school kid, your name and face will land on the news, and the system and the hungry-to-judge public will be merciless. Life as you know it will be over. But, if you coach girls and screw them, we shrug and dismiss it as the nature of the intimate but vital player-coach relationship. Kill the (alleged) fondler, quietly move the (known) screwer to the next stop. In the South, band teachers and art teachers and science teachers are all pervs, but coaches are just horny.

I'm not defending fondlers. If they're guilty, let them be eunuchs for all I care. But give them their day in court before parading them around in public. A charge is not a conviction, although I doubt most readers of Just Busted appreciate that nuance.

Can you imagine if Sting had written “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” in North Georgia?! The dude was a scrawny nerdy English teacher! The boys in the pen would've loved them some Gordon Sumner.

The charges against Coach Hoffner were dropped, but the direction of his life, and the life of his innocent family, is forever altered. If the charges are dropped or this North Georgia band teacher is found not guilty, he will never again teach, and his family will forever be paying off a debt merely to earn his freedom, and good luck getting a decent job if anyone does a Google search background check (well, maybe he can get a job in the Rutgers Athletic Office).

The snot keeps dripping in the bowl. Maybe that’s inevitable. Yet it seems, over and over again, to be dripping on the more egregiously awful side. The rain will fall on the just and unjust alike, but I wish it weren’t equally true of the snot.

1 comment:

G. B. Miller said...

Can't forget the guy in the UK who spent decades molesting children while doing a children's progam on the BBC and became knighted as well.

Stuff like this becomes institutionalized to a degree when the powers that be look the other way.