Sunday, April 1, 2007

Sexual harassment in education

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Sexual harassment in education is unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that interferes with a student’s ability to learn, study, work or participate in school activities. In the U.S., it is a form of discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Sexual harassment involves a range of behavior from mild annoyances to sexual assault and rape. (AAUW 2002, 2006,Dzeich et al, 1990) See Sexual harassment: Varied behaviors and circumstances for examples.

Most sexual harassment is peer-peer, but sexual harassment by teachers and other school employees has also been reported. (AAUW 2002,2006) While sexual harassment is legally defined as "unwanted" behavior, many experts agree that even consensual sexual interactions between students and teachers constitutes harassment because the power differential creates a dynamic in which "mutual consent" is impossible. (Dzeich et al, 1990)

Sexual harassment and abuse of students by teachers

In their 2002 survey, the AAUW reported that, of students who had been harassed, 38% were harassed by teachers or other school employees. One survey, conducted with psychology students, reports that 10% had sexual interactions with their educators; in turn, 13% of educators reported sexual interaction with their students. In a survey of high school students, 14% reported that they had engaged in sexual intercourse with a teacher. (Wishnietsky, 1991) In a national survey conducted for the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation in 2000 that roughly 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse by a public school employee between 1991 and 2000. And in a major 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, nearly 10 percent of U.S. public school students have been targeted with sexual attention by school employees. Indeed, sexual harassment and abuse by teachers has been described as 100 times more frequent than abuse by priests.

In Japan, sexual harassment of students by teachers is so prevalent it has been given its own acronym--SHOC, for "Sexual Harassment on Campus."

Psychology and behaviors of teachers who sexually harass students

Most complaints about teachers' behavior tend to center around what is felt to be inappropriate talk in a class or discussion, such as using sexist or sexual references to make a point. However, some teachers can take things to a more extreme degree. Relationships between students and teachers can be often quite intimate and intense as they share common passions and interests. Students are dependent on their teachers' approval for academic success, opportunities, and later career success. They will talk about personal issues, such as problems at home, or with boyfriends/girlfriends. Such closeness and intimacy can blur the professional boundaries and lead people--both school employee and student alike--to step over the line. Martin writes,

"...teachers hold positions of trust. They are expected to design teaching programmes and carry out their teaching duties to help their students develop as mature thinkers. This may involve close working relationships in tutorials or laboratories, individual meetings to discuss projects or essays, and more casual occasions for intellectual give and take. For impressionable young students, the boundaries between intellectual development and personal life may become blurred. In this situation, some academics easily move from intellectual to personal to sexual relationships."

A teacher who harasses a student may be doing so because they are experiencing the stress from various personal problems or life traumas, such as marital trouble or divorce, professional crisis, financial difficulties, medical problems, or death of a spouse or child. The behavior can be a symptom of the effects of such stresses, and may stop if the situation changes, or the pressures are removed. (See Prekel, The Situational Harasser)

First Offender law to expire

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Xavier Jackson, 18, has the chance to escape a "sex offender" label. He's probably one of the last in Georgia to be able to do so.

Mr. Jackson pleaded guilty last month to child molestation for sexually assaulting a 7-year-old in Augusta several years ago. He got prison time and will be on probation for 10 years once he's released. If he doesn't violate the terms of his probation, the conviction will be erased from his record under his status as a First Offender.

If he had committed his crime after July 1, taking advantage of the state's First Offender law wouldn't have been an option. A change in Georgia's law will prevent judges from granting this status in sexual assault cases. But people who committed crimes before July 1 are still eligible.

First Offender allows a person convicted of his first crime to have his record expunged if he successfully completes his sentence. The flip side is that if the person violates any condition of probation, even for something as minor as running a red light, the judge can re-sentence him to the maximum sentence possible.

It's a risk, but for someone who is convicted of a sex crime, there is a benefit that may outweigh that concern. Having a clean record means not being on a sex offender registry.

In Richmond County Superior Court since 1990, judges have granted First Offender status to 72 people who have committed sex crimes. Their crimes ranged from statutory rape to incest, according to a computer-assisted analysis by The Augusta Chronicle.

Nearly half have been unable to make it through their sentences without violating probation conditions. But at least a dozen have been successful, and their records are clear of any conviction.

They no longer have to register as a convicted sex offender, with their photo, address and criminal details open to public view.

Those who make it off the registry can live and work where they want and they can take part in any activities they choose.

District Attorney Danny Craig opposes First Offender status for anyone convicted of a sex crime.

"Once a person has shown a propensity, society has responsibility to eliminate the potential for re-offending on a child," Mr. Craig said in an interview.

An example is Michael Jay Brown.

This former assistant pastor and volunteer at a center for abused and neglected children was arrested in 2004 for videotaping under the skirts of teenagers at Augusta Mall.

A 1986 conviction for peeping Tom had been shielded from public knowledge because he was sentenced as a First Offender.

Mr. Craig says that it's too dangerous to risk a child's safety by cloaking someone's past criminal history, particularly if they committed a sex crime.

There is no way to distinguish one sex offender from another to gauge the potential for re-offending, he said.

"I don't think they should ever come out from under the label," Mr. Craig said.

Veteran defense attorney Pete Theodocion agrees that people who prey on children should be subjected to all monitoring possible, but not all sex crime offenders are guilty of molesting children.

He points to the 19-year-old who has sex with a willing 15-year-old girl, which is statutory rape. It's not the same as child molestation, Mr. Theodocion said.

Why should that young man have a sex offender label across his back for the rest of his life, Mr. Theodocion asked.

There must be a way to keep a tight watch on true predators and let go those who likely won't be back in court again, he said.

"I don't think the two should be mutually exclusive," he said of the sex offender registry and First Offender status.

He who is without sin

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It is because all the people who ban anyone from any church are all hypocrites and do not study the bible. They only read what would benefit them. Ejector video is at the end of the article.

It seems to me that the only crime for which there is no forgiveness in our society is child molestation. It is certainly horrible to assault a helpless child and I’m glad that the practice is shunned. The desire to protect children from any and all harm is understandable and hard to disagree with (though this op-ed in Newsweek shows how the desire to protect children from harm can be overdone).

But when I consider the shunning from the perspective of the child molester, I wonder how they’re able to even try to get better. Their picture, name and address are publicly available for all people to investigate. They have limitations on where they can live. They live in a society that tends to think improvement in this area is impossible. Or only possible through castration and the complete abstention from all contact with children.

So I’ve been fascinated by a recent spate of stories about how churches should receive or treat child molesters in their midst. Presumably child molesters have always been members of congregations — but members may not have realized it.

The most prominent story — and the one with the best coverage — has been in a San Diego United Church of Christ congregation. Many of the stories I’ve read have covered the internal strife caused by the revelation that a sex offender wants to join a congregation. But few have really analyzed the religious perspectives of the various sides in the conflict.

Here’s how Sandi Dolbee of the San Diego Union Tribune began her March 14 story:

On a Sunday morning in late January, the Rev. Madison Shockley reminded his congregation at Pilgrim United Church of Christ of the New Testament story in which Jesus stops a crowd from stoning an adulterer.

Whoever is without sin should throw the next stone, Jesus tells the people, and the crowd disperses.

Then Shockley introduced Mark Pliska, who had been attending the Carlsbad church for a few weeks. Pliska told the crowd his story, that he was a convicted child molester.
Dolbee goes on to explain that the revelation produced a debate between safety and inclusiveness. Many of the members had, sadly, been abused as children. Pliska was disinvited from the congregation until they could figure out how to handle the issue over the long term. A on-member associated with the church’s preschool launched a vigorous campaign against Pliska’s participation in the congregation.

Dolbee provides great insight, speaking with a few experts on the topic of sex offenders and congregational life. Both provide very helpful information on what a congregation must know when dealing with known sex offenders. I only wish that the theological views of people who disagree with the pastor had been included. I’m very curious to know what their theological reasoning is and none of the stories I’ve read have really fleshed that out. I’m not confused by their instinctual reaction or desire to protect their children — I just want to know more about how their Christianity factors into their decision to oppose membership for a sex offender.

Dolbee followed up the story with another big piece on March 25. She speaks with two members who were abused as children and finds they have very different attitudes about how to treat the sex offender. A 44-year-old mother of a young child doesn’t even want him looking at pictures of families that are posted in the hallway. But a member who was abused by a priest is on a team of people working with the sex offender while the congregation spends months deciding whether or not he may attend.

In this and the previous story, the reporter speaks with other congregations’ leaders about how they handle the situation. She also interviews local clergy to get their take. I found their thoughts illuminating:
Bishop George McKinney of St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God in Christ in San Diego’s Valencia Park neighborhood, said he has had sex offenders in his congregation in the past, though he doesn’t know whether he has any now.

“We simply believe that the church is a hospital,” McKinney said.

Others are hesitant.

“You would hope that everything would all just work out fine and dandy,” said the Rev. Art Lyons, a longtime leader in jail ministry and a pastor at Canyon Community Church in Chula Vista. “But I think, realistically, it’s really a hard thing for people to get their emotions around, to have a convicted child molester or pedophile in a congregation where their children are around.”

It also would be a troubling request for Rabbi Scott Meltzer of Ohr Shalom Synagogue near Balboa Park.

“It is one of those crimes where the numbers and the issues around rehabilitation are really abysmal and disturbing,” Meltzer said.

“With a heavy heart, I don’t think I would be comfortable with a registered sex offender being able to participate actively within our congregation.”
She actually speaks with a bunch of Christian pastors, though I didn’t excerpt all of them. The Christians cover a certain range of views on the matter but it’s interesting that she speaks with a rabbi, too. It makes the lack of theological explanation even more problematic since Jews and Christians presumably would have different theological approaches to the matter.

Dolbee also shares a story about a pastor who was told about a sex offender in the congregation. He gave the offender rules about contact with children — rules the molester repeatedly flouted. The pastor says he bets there are molesters in every congregation.

I guess that’s why I find this story so interesting. I assume that if my fellow congregants are like me: we all have a lot of very dark and secret sins that we’re glad are not out in the open. I assume that each person has their own struggle but that the struggle is serious and profound. Maybe that’s why I wish some of these stories — though the ones I highlighted were far and away the best — had a bit more perspective on the general theological approach to sin.

Another note about the stories — all the reporters keep pointing out that Pilgrim United Church of Christ is a liberal and progressive congregation that is surprised to be dealing with an exclusionary debate. I follow this church body quite a bit because my mother was baptized and confirmed at UCC churches. Nearly her entire family has since left in the last four decades but I still think fondly on what the church meant to my family and keep track of the various goings on therein.

But isn’t the point of the United Church of Christ’s stance on various issues that their theological progressivism means they don’t view certain things as sin? Remember their “pew ejector” ad campaigns (pictured) that criticized other churches for condemning certain behaviors as sinful? It implied that other churches were racist and networks refused to run it on the grounds it engaged in advocacy (as opposed to other advertisements?).

Anyway, when the UCC proclaims that it welcomes homosexuals, it’s not because they view homosexuality as sinful but want homosexuals to feel welcome in their congregations. On the contrary, they don’t view homosexuality as sinful at all.

So this story about sex molesters is different. The sex molesters are not only considered sinful by some congregants — but perpetually and possibly irretrievably so. That’s a completely different enchilada. So I’m not sure if reporters are properly juxtaposing this against the UCC’s progressivism. Rather it might be interesting to highlight, again, the UCC’s stance on what qualifies as sinful behavior and how congregations should treat such sinfulness.

Texas prosecutors, lawmakers at odds over "Jessica’s Law"

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No one wants to say — at least not out loud — that they oppose laws making it tougher on child rapists.

And with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst championing a legislative package known as “Jessica’s Law,” it was a safe bet state lawmakers would get in line to fast-track the proposed legislation, which includes the death penalty for repeat sexual offenders and minimum 25-year prison terms for others.

But prosecutors and others who regularly deal with sexual predators and the shattered lives they leave behind voice concerns the proposed legislation could have unintended consequences, such as a chilling effect on victims whose testimonies could result in the execution of a family member or a mandatory long prison term.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee voted March 13 to send two versions of the bill to the full Senate. But the panel’s chairman, Houston Democrat John Whitmire, has said a lot of work remains on the measure, which continues to be a priority for Dewhurst and Gov. Rick Perry.

The House version passed 119-25 on March 6.

The bill’s namesake

The legislation is named for Jessica Lunsford, the 9-year-old Florida girl who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered in 2005. John Evander Couey, 48, was convicted last month in her death and a jury recommended the death penalty.

Under one version of the proposed Texas legislation, sex offenders who already have been convicted and whose next victim is younger than 14 would be eligible for the death penalty the next time they’re convicted of improperly touching a child.

David Davis, executive director of the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children in Waco, says he has apprehensions about the proposed laws. While he’s against the death penalty, he says no one is more deserving of it than those who hurt children.

“I see on a daily basis lives that are devastated by the behavior of predators and I meet with people whose lives are radically different and radically impaired by the actions of a sex offender,” he said. “So is it an eye for an eye? If you think in those kind of terms, I can’t think of anything more devastating than sexual abuse. But is it good policy? I don’t think so.”

Dewhurst has cast aside criticism of the bills as “red herrings,” though he says he respects the views of prosecutors who have challenged them. He made a rare appearance before a Senate committee last month to push for the proposed legislation.

“It’s to send a message to child molesters,” Dewhurst said. “Don’t do this. Don’t do it in Texas, for heaven’s sake.”

Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley testified before the same Senate committee that a child molester might be more likely to kill his child victim to remove a witness if he knows he faces the death penalty. Bradley also fears new mandatory sentences might reduce prosecutors’ discretion.

“I cannot support a bill that will make it any more likely that a child will die,” he said. “The number of options I have with this bill go down, not up.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also spoke for passage of the legislation. He rejects concerns that child abusers would be more likely to kill their victims with the possibility of the death penalty looming.

“Frankly, I think that such claims are ludicrous,” he said. “I don’t know about you, but I cannot recall a time when a sex offender, having committed a crime, pulls out the code of criminal procedure or the penal code to try to figure out what likely is going to happen.”

McLennan County District Attorney John Segrest said he is “monitoring the situation in Austin with interest” but declined additional comment on the effects the proposed legislation, if passed, might have on day-to-day prosecutions in his office.

“That is a legislative issue and we do not take public positions about the legislative process,” Segrest said.

State Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, voted for the House version, saying “we need to be serious about sex offenders.” However, he said he has some constitutional concerns about the package.

Texas remains by far the most active death-penalty state. However, so far, it has reserved the ultimate punishment for those who commit murder during the course of another felony, for those who kill multiple victims, for cop killers and for those who murder children.

Some question if the laws as proposed will pass constitutional muster. Despite its conservative nature, the U.S. Supreme Court has been limiting the scope of capital punishment, not expanding it.

It has ruled in recent years that the mentally retarded, those younger than 18 when they killed and those who are mentally incompetent at the time of their scheduled executions are not eligible for execution.

Constitutional issues

Baylor University law professor David Guinn, a constitutional law expert, says the proposed sex offender laws could raise issues concerning Eighth Amendment guarantees against cruel and unusual punishment.

In a 1977 case from Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that death was unconstitutional for the sexual assault of a 16-year-old.

“The Supreme Court is very definitely narrowing the scope for the death penalty,” he said.

Falls County District Attorney Jody Gilliam says most prosecutors are raising concerns over the minimum 25-year sentences for some offenders. She says that will force more cases to trial because it gives prosecutors less flexibility to plea bargain.

That means taking weaker cases to trial and forcing more young victims to testify who are afraid, not very articulate, too young or a family member of the defendant.

“Most of us agree that it takes away our ability to really get something done with a case,” Gilliam said. “Some victims testify better than others, some won’t testify. I had a trial last week and the victim froze up on me. But I was able to get a conviction because her mother had caught them in the act and he had bragged about having sex with her. But you don’t have that in every case.”

Town may rezone sex offenders

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Holden hearing is tomorrow

HOLDEN— Whether a community can protect its children by restricting where sex offenders live will be examined vigorously at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in Town Hall during a public hearing on a controversial bylaw proposal.

The proposed bylaw would disallow Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of any school, park, day care center, housing complex for the elderly or any other recreational facility where children regularly congregate.

Police Chief George R. Sherrill said he opposes the bylaw and will be among law enforcement professionals speaking against it at the meeting.

According to Chief Sherrill, there are about 11 Level 2 registered sex offenders living or working in Holden and one Level 3 registered sex offender living in town.

Level 3 sex offenders are considered the most likely to repeatedly commit sexually aggressive crimes. Level 2 sex offenders are considered less likely to re-offend. Their crimes can include rape and abuse of a child.

Restricting where some offenders live will not prevent them from watching children at the town pool or posing a danger in other places, according to Chief Sherrill.

“I’m afraid it will give people a false sense of security,” Chief Sherrill said about the proposed bylaw.

Cynthia G. Bazinet, a regional school board member and educator, plans to use facts to prove that the proposed buffer zone around schools and other child-centered locations would be ridden with problems and ineffective.

Selectman James Jumonville, who proposed the bylaw, said he is prepared to support the proposal, regardless of the controversy, because it could make children safer.

“It’s about protection. Some may say it doesn’t do that much good or it isn’t constitutional, but I’m willing to walk that walk if it saves one child,” Mr. Jumonville said.

“It’s about stepping up,” he said, adding that the bylaw is not a perfect solution.

He asked selectmen last month to place an article on the warrant for the annual town meeting May 21 asking voters to adopt a sex offender residency restriction bylaw.

Similar restrictions have failed or are having enforcement difficulties in several area communities, including Marlboro and Fitchburg.

But Mr. Jumonville said he fashioned the proposal for Holden after the West Boylston residency restriction bylaw adopted by voters and approved by the state attorney general’s office. He sees the proposed bylaw as one protective measure, not as a complete solution.

Mr. Jumonville said the other day that he had proposed the bylaw on behalf of concerned parents with Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders living next door to them, or in their neighborhoods.

“People have to step to the plate,” he said. “I think it would be a good thing for Holden.”

He said people have phoned him and sent him e-mail on the topic, and based on that response he believes most people in town want the bylaw. He said a proposed state law that would restrict Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of schools and other children’s facilities demonstrates a broadening concern about sex offenders residing near children.

The Holden proposal “will be voted up or down by the community,” he said, and he will support what voters decide.

Selectmen declined to place the article on the warrant without first holding a public hearing. They will vote tomorrow on various articles proposed for the warrant.

In the meantime, resident Kathleen Dixon, who has spoken in favor of the residency restriction, has submitted a citizen petition with signatures of 13 registered voters asking that the article be on the warrant.

Articles submitted by citizen petitions do not need selectmen’s approval to be on the warrant.

Chief Sherrill said a lot of people will be lined up to speak on each side of the issue, and predicted that people will be surprised by some of the people who oppose the bylaw.

He also said the town bylaw would carry civil, not criminal, penalties, and would be difficult to enforce. Without enforcement tools, he said, it would be meaningless.

Police Officer Arrested For Raping A Minor

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Ocean View Police Officer Arrested for Rape in the Fourth Degree

The Delaware State Police have concluded an investigation into the allegations surrounding the 2006 rape of a then 17-year-old Dagsboro resident by an Ocean View Police Department officer- Walter Johnson, 31, of Ocean View, DE.

On March 27, 2007 the Attorney Generals Office and the Ocean View Police Department administration notified the Delaware State Police that earlier in the week a third party reported Walter Johnson had sex with a minor in October of 2006. State Police launched an investigation immediately.

This investigation revealed that sex between the victim and Mr. Walter Johnson was consensual and took place one time in October of 2006 and one time in November of 2006. These incidents did not occur during Mr. Walter Johnson's working hours.

The findings of the investigation were presented to the Attorney Generals Office. Arrest warrants were obtained on March 30th for two counts of Rape in the 4th degree. Rape in the 4th degree specifically refers to consensual sex in which the age of the victim is less than 18 years of age and the suspect is over 30 years of age.

Walter Johnson voluntarily turned himself in to detectives in the evening of March 30, 2007. He was arraigned and released on $40,000.00 unsecured bail. As a condition of his bail, he is to have no contact with the victim or any persons under the age of 18. Mr. Johnson has resigned his position as an Ocean View Police Officer.