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.