Today, in a scathing editorial, the Washington Post related the shocking story of the firing of Daniel Picca, a Montgomery County, Maryland elementary school teacher who was suspected by school officials of having inappropriate relations with male students since at least 1995. This was, said the Post, ” a stinging indictment of a school bureaucracy that for almost two decades believed it had a problem but reacted with a seemingly endless flow of ineffective warnings, letters, reprimands and — most appalling — reassignments of the teacher to other schools and other students.” Montgomery County, it should be noted, boasts of one of the finest public school systems in the nation….or so we have been told.
Picca, as was detailed by a hearing examiner in 2010 and by an administrative law judge this year, had been warned for 17 years about his conduct with young boys, including inappropriate touching, having students sit on his lap, “wrestling” with the boys and inviting some to an extracurricular “Strong Boys Club” of his own invention, where he encouraged male students to remove their shirts, according to student testimony. In 1995, county child protective services said that Picca was responsible for “indicated child abuse.”The school system now says it missed this, somehow—not that it didn’t have plenty of evidence already.
“The evidence is overwhelming,” Administrative Law Judge David Hofstetter concluded in his July ruling upheld last week by the state board, that Picca “engaged in a pattern of conduct over many years which was reckless, brazen, unjustified and, most importantly, of grave potential harm to his students.” The Post quotes the letter Jerry D. Weast, then the Mongomery County School Superintendent sent to Picca in February of 2000, instructing him to cease “bodybuilding”-type activities with students or have contact with them outside the classroom. “When confronted with such obvious inappropriate behaviors on the part of a teacher toward his students,” the State Education Board wrote last week in finally approving Picca’s dismissal, shouldn’t parents be able to assume “that the teacher will be removed from contact with students with alacrity?”
Why, no, in fact they shouldn’t assume that. This is because school bureaucracies in Montgomery County and elsewhere are so obsessed with paper work, procedures, appeals, avoiding law suits and averting union protests, and so deficient in communication, follow-through, competence, and courage, that not only incompetent educators, but dangerous ones, can linger in the system, earning scarce taxpayer funds, undermining students’ education and well-being, and in cases like Picca’s, preying on children for months, years and even decades.
That is why our sons and daughters are not safe in the public schools.
Aside: Anyone who identifies the similarity between this behavior by school systems and the international handling of such global outlaws as Syria and Iran goes to the head of the class.
Facts: Washington Post
Graphic: The View From My Porch
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