Saturday, September 22, 2007

Faith-Based Private Schools Have Their Share of Sexual Predators

Stories like this should shake uncritical private school advocates out of any complacent assumptions that the presence of faith statements in parochial settings provides a fire wall against sexual predators. In fact, precisely because private schools lack the wider reach, the broader accountability and the higher visibility of public schools, abuse is more likely to happen, remain hidden, or covered up.

In fact, I dare say, if the accused predator in this story had not taught at a Knoxville public school and had not been under media scrutiny before teaching at Whites Creek's conservative Pioneer Christian Academy, she might not have been caught or fired with publicity there.


  1. For every report of impropriety in a religious school you find a disproportionate number in the public school system. Pamela Rogers, Debra LaFave, etc., etc.

  2. Of course you will. There are disproportionately higher numbers of public school students and public school teachers, so there are more chances of abuse happening. Also, public schools are mandated to take all comers seeking an education, which increases the chances. Third, public schools are more publicly accountable for abuse than private schools. Public schools are watched by government mechanisms and the mainstream media more closely than private schools, which have no strong procedural or independent watchdog. My guess is that many private school sex abuse cases happen unseen and that they are more likely to be covered up by their governing bodies. Finally, I would think that greater levels of vulnerable student populations in public schools and decreasing degrees of adequate clinical support and assistance--thanks to the erosion of financial support in public schools--would make their reported cases rate higher than parochial schools.

  3. How does the status of the student ("public schools are mandated to take all comers") affect the likelihood of abuse by teachers and administrators?

    The government mechanisms (school board? MNEA?) have shown in recent cases of special needs students being abused they are not forthcoming with reporting of such events and also seem unwilling to take action.

  4. I won't be spending a lot of time replying to anonymous individuals who have acted trollish in the past.

    Suffice it to say that there is nothing culturally distinct in public schools that make them more prone to harbor sexual abuse than private schools. Differences in rates can be attributed to structural differences. Ultimately the cause is due to the personal choice of the predators themselves. The fact that they do appear in even the most conservative parochial schools bears that out.

  5. nashville_bound

    Knox County Schools did not discover and then self-report the student-teacher affair; the police did after the husband killed the student. As a parent of two children in Parochial school my two-cents of wisdom is that by definition children as safer in a private school setting; sexually, mentally and physically. Is that attributable to the schools? Partly, but it is also because on average so many more parents are involved day-to-day than in public schools. In my limited experience 'nothing' happens in the school that does not make the rounds. And unlike public schools where not doing your job is no threat to future employment public school parents vote with their money. So screw up too often and you have no students.

    Why the private school did hire her is a good question. I would venture that someone dropped the ball. Metro is no leader in this area as they are years away from completing background checks on their own employees/teachers. Despite the bad judgment there seems to be no new scandal being covered-up at the new private school as you intimate. The teacher simply moved to another state to live with a friend.