Since writing the earlier post I have also noticed comments such as “where was the teacher”, blaming the teacher for allowing the actions of the kids. In my work with juvenile offenders I have worked closely with their parents as well, and though they are not the primary victim of this crime, they are victims as well. They often blame themselves and flog themselves with the belief of “I should have known, how didn’t I see it?” I can imagine the teacher is in a similar place, and a great deal of work I do with the parents is about being able to allow themselves to understand that their kid intentionally worked to hide his / her behavior from their parents. That without eyes in the back of their heads and pre-cognition, there was no way to know what their kid was going to do.
So how were they able to do what they did in a public setting?
1. We as humans have a difficult time seeing things that we don’t expect to see. In a few cases we have trouble seeing what we don’t WANT to see, but more often it is the former. We expect our children to be healthy and relatively well behaved. We just don’t expect kids to want to hurt other kids in that way.
2. Teens, people in general really, are very good at hiding things. As women we hide the new pair of shoes or the new dress from the husband. The over-eater hides their eating, the alcoholic their drinking, the sex offender their offenses. Unfortunately they are often very good at covering up their offenses even from themselves. (If they knew full well that they were hurting someone without any way of justifying their behavior with comments such as “they’re just kids, it won’t effect them”; “She really wanted it, look at how she dresses” etc, would they continue to knowingly hurt others? The vast majority of sexual offenders are not psychopaths with no empathy, they have distorted their concept of empathy so that it doesn’t include the victims of their actions.) Teens in general are good at hiding things from people, especially adults. They frequently get caught, but I remember back to my adolescence, and though I was a fairly good kid, I know what I was able to sneak past my parents. It sounds like these kids were sophisticated enough to be able to place themselves in a position that was unable to be seen easily by the teacher.
And honestly, why should the teacher have an eagle eye on every child in the classroom? The school is not a school for deviants, mentally ill teens, or offenders. They happen to be offenders in a school of healthy normal (remember, normal and healthy are relative) teenagers. Though school classrooms are becoming less and less like the classroom of my day; a student in every seat listening to the teacher and paying attention, running each classroom as though every teen is a delinquent is overall unhealthy.
Classrooms, for the most part, are places of learning. Students who are not interested in learning are more likely to be visiting Facebook on their i-phone, listening to their MP3 player, or writing a note to someone than to turn and sexually offend on their classmate. The teacher, based on reports, responded immediately as soon as he saw there was a student in distress, and I see no reason to censure or flog publicly the man who works to keep our kids futures bright. The ones to be held responsible for this behavior is the teens themselves. There also is no reason to implement martial law in classrooms “just in case” this happens again. Teach children to be comfortable saying no. Work to educate children and teens on the rights of their bodies and how to protect themselves, and work to teach boys to respect girls, but allow classrooms to continue to be classrooms.