The Monster Among Us

Last week, a longtime teacher at an elementary school near where I live was arrested on child pornography and molestation charges. Thankfully, he was not a teacher at our local elementary. But his wife is my daughter’s principal.

My heart immediately went out to her. I can’t imagine what it would be like to discover your spouse has that dark a secret. I wondered how much she knew or if this was a total surprise to her. I wondered about her two children. But, initially anyway, there wasn’t much to know. Only what the News was telling us.

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a special meeting at the school. Select parents were invited and told that recent events would be under discussion. When we got there, the meeting turned out to be a regularly scheduled parent-teacher meeting, this time with police. Ten minutes had been set aside for a representative from the school district and the Captain in charge of the investigation to speak and answer questions. Whoever thought ten minutes would be enough was clearly delusional.

The Captain explained that Mrs. Yang had no knowledge of her husband’s true nature. He was a predator, and a smart one at that. He’d used a school laptop but switched out the hard drive and did all of his illegal activities away from the school’s network. There was no way for anyone to know what he was doing. He truly was “a monster among us.” The only reason he was discovered was because a student he moletsted spoke up and her parents called the police, launching the investigation.

The district representative told us Mrs. Yang was on leave, but her job was secure and she’d be back at work once she felt able.

What came next was a bloodbath. Hands shot up and voices rang out in opposition to the very idea that Mrs. Yang would ever be allowed back into the school. “How could she not know?” one parent asked.

“What does it say about her that she didn’t know?” said another.

“We’re really all just assuming she didn’t know, wouldn’t we rather be sure? Shouldn’t she not be allowed to keep her job so that we can be sure?”

“If she couldn’t figure out what her own husband is doing, how is she going to protect our kids?”

The Captain assured everyone Mrs. Yang was just as much a victim in this as anyone else. He sees it all the time. Predators are good at what they do. They can hide things from spouses, colleagues, friends. Anyone.

Didn’t matter. When one parent finally said that the school district would break a fundamental trust with the parents in the community if they allowed Mrs. Yang to keep her job, the applause shook the room.

I was seething. I get concern, but this was just fear run amok and turned ugly. Blaming the victim for anything–and Mrs. Yang is absolutely a victim in all of this (I take the Captain in charge of the investigation at his word; I assume he knows more than me) and you don’t heap more abuse and suspicion on the victim.

I raised my hand. I wanted to publicly support Mrs. Yang. I don’t know that she’s the greatest principal ever–I’ve even been a little critical of her since she took over in August–but the pitchforkery on display in the cafeteria yesterday was clearly, unequivocally, wrong. I was disgusted by what I heard and disappointed in my fellow parents.

As it happened, a friend of ours sitting next to us, Kristie, was called on before me and said exactly what I was going to say. Then another parent raised her voice in support as well.  Many, louder voices went up against hers and there was a clear divide in the room. The meeting was ended abruptly and any parents with further concerns were told to see the district representative afterwards.

As Kristie headed out, a parent representing the Hmong community thanked her for speaking up. They were afraid that this had become a racially charged issue. Kristie could only say that, at least within her circle, that simply wasn’t the case.

Now, a day later, I’m just sad. If I were Mrs. Yang, I’d take my two kids and move. Far, far away. I don’t know that I’d want to swim against a tide that strong and I don’t know what the point of that would be. But if she chooses to come back to work? She’s got my full support.

I hope what I heard yesterday was simply unprocessed fear. I hope that, with time, those parents can calm down. My heart goes out to the brave little girl who spoke up and her family, but Mrs. Yang has suffered and will suffer much in the next several months. She and her family remain in my prayers as well.

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10 comments

  1. We’re never far from mob mentality. When I watch post-apocalyptic or disaster movies, mob violence is the factor that scares me more than anything else.

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  2. You are definitely right Brock, she is the second most hurt victim in this, the girl who was abused being the first. Her whole family, life as she knew it, life as her kids knew it has just imploded around them. The last thing the community needs to do is chastise her for what this scum of a husband of hers has done.

    Let’s look at this in a different way. If her husband was beating her and her children, and the story came out would they chastise the wife then because of the abuse she is taking and has allowed her children to take. NO! This is the same scenario, behind closed doors her husband has been doing something out of the light of day and the eyes of others that is a beating to his family. Sure the pain of what he is doing in private does not affect them until it comes out in public sight, but once there they are basically beat to death by her husband and their fathers actions. This is the time to lift her up, embrace her and her family and help them recover from this as well.

    I think the tide would have been different if they had seen her up there crying, distraught and apologizing for her husbands actions. They would have seen her as the victim then and not just had the thoughts of what HE did in their minds, but what his actions have done to her and her kids as well. I hope in time your community can heal and that Mrs. Yang can once again take back her position and show these parents that want to chastise her that she IS there to protect their children and that she DOES care for their safety and will do everything in her power to make sure that her soon to be ex-husband or any other scum sucking low life (male or female) does not have a chance to get close to any of your children on her watch.

    Me and my families prayers are with her and her children. I know how this feels, and I empathize with her on the feeling of being betrayed by someone you loved and held to a higher standard in your mind only to be let down big time.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful and heartfelt comment, Todd. I wish there was more rallying around Mrs. Yang. I hope in time that poeple will be able see things as you do.

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  3. Thank you Brock for your very well written piece. Kia Yang is a good friend of mine. She and i worked together last year at Buchanan High School. I knew her to be a great woman. Very family oriented and dedicated to your work in education. I do believe that she had no idea about what was going on. I say this because if she had I have no doubt that she would have reported it to the police herself. She is that kind of person of integrity. Furthermore, I do not blame her for the horrific sins of her husband. We all know someone who we thought we knew to be a person of chacter that actually turns out to be someone quite different. As you point out, he went to great lengthens to conceal his deeds. I appreciate you speaking up for my friend Kia. You approach this tragedy with the kind of humility and restraint that I wish all would take. Please take my word that Kia Yang is worth supporting in this her time of greatest need.

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    1. Hey Matt, thanks for the insight. I had no idea Mrs. Yang was a friend of yours. Knowing that raises my esteem for her quite a bit. I hope that she takes it to heart that there are many willing to publicly support her. Those with the loudest voices should not be allowed to dominate the discussion.

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  4. Not comparing her to Jesus, of course, but he was crucified for the same reason. This is a case where the community doesn’t have all the facts and fear has taken hold. As you said, I get concern. But that was fear in full force. And that can be very dangerous.

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    1. What’s sad is that it’s a really good school with a high degree of parent involvement. I really thought everybody was above this sort of thing, but I guess when you combine concerns for kids with mod mentality, this is what you get.

      And you’re right–the facts weren’t being taken into consideration. And when they were brought up? They were dismissed.

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  5. The link to this story made its way to Pennsylvania, and I’m glad I had a chance to read your post. Thanks for writing it, and thanks to you and Kristie for standing up for Mrs. Yang.

    I have similarly (and recently) observed how emotions seem to overwhelm reason when it comes to this topic. It is disheartening, and it does nothing — absolutely nothing — to protect our children. Nor does it serve as any sort of model for our children regarding how adults should react to serious, unhappy events.

    That reason can so easily be overcome by emotion, and that people can so easily find a support group for their emotions, is one of the less admirable aspects of human nature.

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    1. Gotta love the internet. I don’t know how this post made it you way, Bruce, but I’m glad that it did. I’m sorry you’ve seeing something so similar, but reason can win out when people speak up. I believe that.

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