Doubt – The Movie and Pedophilia in the Schoolhouse

Sister Aloysius, the catalytic character in the movie, Doubt, portrays the responsible educator confronted with the duty to act when faced with pedophilia in the schoolhouse. It is important that Sister Aloysius struggles to act on behalf of the students. Each individual in a position of trust for youth, but set a high standard for intervention. Don’t let the doubt of colleagues compromise the child’s safety.

My own experience with this duty to act was driven by the complaint raised by the boyfriend of a former student. His girlfriend was still traumatized by the experience of sexual betrayal at the hands of a trusted staff member. I was newly appointed to my position as a high school principal, yet I did take the responsibility to act. At the time, the laws were different on one level, but the individual accountability for doing the “right thing” is always present. I initiated an investigation, talking to staff members who came forward with what they knew. It was an opened floodgate with yearbooks used to point out students who were victimized over time.

My investigation revealed that the staff member in question had seventeen years of complaints about inappropriate sexual relationships with male and female students. After bringing this information to the superintendent, he then hired an investigator.

The investigator compiled an overwhelming body of evidence as a result of gathering information regarding the sexual activity with children in the school. As the district episode progresses, politics prevails. The individual in question is permitted to resign. When he surfaces again it is as a staff member in an adjacent school district with a recommendation from a then member of the state board of education. And parallel to the outcomes for the accused in the movie, the individual is left to repeat the behavior with a new audience of students.

“A recent investigation by the Associated Press found that sexual abuse of students by the nation’s teachers is rampant – yet criminal and civil sanctions to punish this behavior are spotty at best.

Over a five-year period, the AP found more than 2,500 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked or surrendered for student abuse, and found that about half of them were also convicted of crimes related to their misconduct.

The investigation concluded that these numbers may be just the tip of the iceberg.”

It is important for those in positions of trust to act to protect the youthful charges of our schools. Personal power means getting beyond out own fearful doubts and acting from the highest mind or value. Know that those who disagree will attack or resist your standard. Resistance of denial does not mean that you have a incorrect assessment. Feel compelled to act.

Delia Armstrong Busby is an award winning educator and former school board member

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