I am heartbroken and appalled by the actions, and lack thereof, of the Windham Southeast School District Board and its superintendent, in their disregard for the rights and needs not only of the victims of sexual grooming and abuse by school staff, but of our entire community.
It is difficult to imagine that the board and superintendent, who are meant to be the chief advocates and protectors regarding all aspects of students' lives, could be so naive about the appropriate response required in situations of abuse and harm.
One would think that especially now, in the midst of the #MeToo Movement, some obvious lessons have been learned about accountability, and the repair of betrayal and wrongdoing.
But alas, this is what the board has succeeded in doing:
1. Teaching students to equate authority with danger and fear, and letting them know that there will be no accountable adult within the school to turn to with sensitive issues or complaints.
2. Letting parents know that their children's safety is not a priority of the school system and its governing board.
3. Failing to incorporate the dictates of our legal system, the expertise of our police department personnel, and the standards of our criminal justice system in responding to felonies perpetrated by school employees on underage, vulnerable youth.
4. Failure to be accountable to every tax-paying citizen of this county, whose hard-earned monies fund the school system through taxation, and who assume these funds will be used to provide not only academic education but care in the realms of social, cultural, and moral responsibility.
5. Casting doubt in the minds our community-at-large upon the board's own ability to manage its affairs in a transparent, accountable manner, regarding both the law and the social structure.
6. Ignoring the obvious needs of victims to receive validation of their experience and their courage in coming forward.
7. Teaching young people that sexual misbehavior is an acceptable norm.
8. Letting students know that the topmost authorities governing their school experience do not care what happens to them, and that betrayal of students by school authorities is to be expected.
9. Failing to engage in the actions necessary to repair harm.
It is with a heavy heart, and deep worry for our youth, that I implore Brattleboro Police Chief Norma Hardy and our police department to conduct their own investigation into these matters, and bring known perpetrators, such as Zeke Hecker - who admitted his guilt outright in The Commons - into the criminal justice system, where they, as any sexual predator of youth, will be subject to the letter of the law.
This letter to the editor was submitted to The Commons.