Home > Uncategorized > Charge Against Substitute Teacher in Richmond VA Exemplifies Challenges of Public Schools

Charge Against Substitute Teacher in Richmond VA Exemplifies Challenges of Public Schools

In scanning the Google Public Education feed this morning I came across two articles from Richmond VA news outlets reporting that a substitute teacher was charged with inappropriately touching a child under the age of 12. Both of them, from the Richmond Post-Dispatch and from Richmond.com featured a picture of the substitute, and both covered pretty much the same information. These articles brought to mind several similar incidents that occurred during my career, most of which happened before the advent of the 24/7 new cycle and the ubiquitous on-line reporting of everything. The two articles drove home couple of overarching points that I may not have made before in this blog:

  • The 24/7 news cycle creates a demand for content: On a given day a story like this might not find its way into the news cycle immediately because of breaking national news or an international event like the fire in the London high-rise that killed innumerable individuals. On the other hand, on another given day this might become the headline story because no newsworthy events occurred.
  • Local events are now national news: The fact that I read two articles about an incident in Richmond VA in my home in New Hampshire illustrates this reality… and whenever I read a story like this I wonder how many similar stories like this were diligently reported in, say, Virginia but never shared with people who live 700 miles away.
  • Public employees are subjected to public scrutiny more than private employees: If this incident involved a McDonalds or a Walmart employee it might never find the light of day. Schools have mandated reporting requirements that protect children, but employers do not have the same kinds of reporting requirements which means they might decide to handle an incident like this “in house” by dismissing the employee instead of going through lengthy process of charging him or her. One of the reasons I am unalterably opposed to de-regulation of charter schools is that likelihood that one of the regulations they might seek to dodge is the one that mandates reporting of these kinds of incidents and allegations.
  • Some media outlets will use allegations like this to reinforce their anti-public school bias: I can imagine that the Richmond Fox News outlet will likely trumpet a storyline like this. It reinforces their narrative that public schools are dangerous and failing insitutiitions where the administrators do not take the time to vet their employees.
  • Placing a picture in a news story alleging wrongdoing does irreversible harm: After reading the story and the comments, it is evident that the accusation against this substitute might be baseless. For the accused, though, the damage has been done. His name has been besmirched and his identification as a child molester reinforced.
  • The nationalization of what was once local news increases polarization: Stories like these amplify whatever belief system the reader holds. The comment sections of this article and virtually every other article I read in mainstream media are a good illustration of how this plays out… and when a clearly biased news outlet (i.e. Breitbart or Truthdig) selects content they tend to report in a way that reinforces their bias and the biases and prejudices of their readers.

I am glad there is widespread availability of local content: the Google feed provides me with a wider perspective on public education and a wider range of  education news. I only wish that the “good news” reported was about the hundreds of substitutes who do extraordinary work day-after-day and not the one who was alleged to have inappropriately touched one of his students.

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