Monday, January 08, 2007

Justice moves so glacially, painfully slowly, in tiny little increments.

Today my brother received news that justice had moved one of those miniscule increments for him.

I have tried to tell my brother's story, obliquely and abortively. My biggest problem has been that it is not really my story to tell. Now, the main incident of his story is a matter of public record in the Education Agency in the State of Texas.

Three years ago, while at home for Christmas, with my book about to be published, I began to reminisce about my career in history. My first American history teacher had written in my 8th grade yearbook something to the effect of "when your first book is published, make sure that it has a distinguished history teacher and coach in it." He, of course, referred to himself. He had been the best teacher I had ever had, before or since. He had won teaching awards, but I have a PhD in history, and two master's degrees, so that endorsement carries some weight. More importantly, his confidence in my work and my intelligence helped hold off the Ophelia syndrome for at least a year. "I wonder whatever happened to him?" I mused to my mother.

Like me, my mother has no unspoken thought. "He looks bad," she said shortly. "He's aged a lot." Then, she paused. She opened her mouth, snapped it closed. She opened her mouth again. Covered it with her hand. I know this routine. The thought sits right behind her face. If you looked into her eyes, you might see it.

"What?" I asked. "What happened?"

"He got caught with a student," she said.

Surprisingly, this did not surprise me. "Please tell me she was over-age," I said, hearing the ways that question should be revised even as the words left my mouth.

"No," said my mom.

"Please tell me she was a 'she'," I said, knowing the answer.

"No," she said.

In 8th grade, all of those beautiful boys who hung around him, on his football teams, on his baseball teams, on his basketball teams, milling about his classroom before school, lingering after school, playing Dungeons & Dragons at his home, going camping on weekends, all without supervision.

Two years later, my brother was one of those boys.

This last, I kept to myself. I had no proof, and my parents would blame themselves if something had happened. As for my brother, how do you approach that conversation? "Hey, it's not my business or anything, but I was just wondering, did this teacher molest you way back in the 80s?" Do you ruin a good memory of a teacher if it didn't happen, and do you meddle in where you weren't invited if it did? So, I let it lie.

Last year, my father's extended family, at least the parts of it who all still speak to one another, had one hell of a Thanksgiving. Neither my nor my brothers could attend, all of us scattered to different parts of the country, them with wives and babies, and no one with enough vacation time or money to make the trip to the gathering at my aunt's house in Baton Rouge. In good Louisiana tradition, people ate and drank to marvelous excess until someone had to air long-standing grievances. As one grievance begot another, my Dittohead cousin revealed that another, much older cousin had made a pass at him when Dittohead was just a child. This led my father to reveal more than he should have about our family.

None of this was relayed to me by my parents in the "we had a nice time at Thanksgiving" messages. My aunt, on the other hand, thinking I knew all about it, wrote "oh, doll, what a holiday! I never knew that a teacher had molested your brother." Now, I knew. I also knew that everyone else knew. I also wondered if my brother knew if everyone else knew. He didn't, although he half-suspected that our dad had "blabbed" it to me, at least. Between him and my parents, most of the full story was revealed to me.

My brother had been molested by this teacher back in the early to mid-1980s. Like many children, he was not going to tell a soul, and like many boys, he thought that he might have been gay as a result. After a very difficult decade of fucking any female with a body temperature and doing every drug he could smoke, snort, or slurp, my brother decided to act. He contacted my dad and told him the story. Since my brother's case had passed the statute of limitations, which was five years at that time, my dad advised him to contact the school district. He did. The school district conducted an "investigation," which consisted of asking the teacher his side of the story, then officially ordering him to avoid any hint of impropriety. This meant that he could not be alone with students and could not meet with students outside of school hours unless another adult was present. The matter stood there for another ten years.

Then, in 2001, the teacher showed up in the same school where my mother was librarian. She was moving to another school, but she alerted another teacher who was also friends with the district police. They kept an eye on him. Sure enough, he was up to his old tricks, only now, not only were a few people alert to him, but parents had become much more savvy and aware of this sort of behavior. This was, after all, in the wake of the accusations against the Catholic priests. When I had first mused, "whatever happened," the school district was already building a case against him. Two years later, his contract was not renewed and his teaching file was flagged.

Then, right after Thanksgiving last year, the Texas education department contacted my brother. They wanted to remove the flag from the teacher's file and revoke his teaching certificate. My brother gave him all of the ammunition that he had, letting them use not only his case, but also his name. The six other students from the years 2002-2004 were also included, but not named. Their cases are still within the statute of limitations, which is now 10 years in Texas.

Today, my brother learned that the state had found this teacher unfit to instruct children. He was ordered to turn in his teaching certificate and all other related documentation. He complied and can no longer teach in Texas. Ever.*

Is this enough? No. The teacher -- now ex-teacher -- is still a predator pursing his prey. He runs a business giving fishing tours, targeting children as his audience and billing himself as the "Fishing Coach." He even has pictures of young boys on his website. The irony is disgusting.

Then, there is all of the damage, damage upon damage, rippling outward from the molestation, that still affects my own family, down into my nephews' generation.

Justice is slow and small; but I am so fucking proud of my brother for making a piece of it happen.


* This teacher taught 8th grade history at Olle Middle School in the Alief Independent School District in Houston from 1977 to 1983 and again from 1987 to 2001, then in Stafford from 1983-1987 and in Fort Bend from 2001 to 2004. If you are browsing around and found this blog, and were molested or approached by him (and you know who he is if you were), then know that you are not alone, and that something has been done.

2 comments:

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Clio Bluestocking said...

Previous comment was not just spam, but offensive spam.

 

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