(The following is my column for this week's Newton County News.)
Teachers gone wild…we’ve all heard the stories.
If it’s not the seemingly interchangeable stories about female teachers and their teenage lovers (or male teachers and theirs), it’s teachers arrested for drug usage, or teachers accused of helping their students cheat on standardized tests.
The latest bad news about the teaching profession came last week in Newton County with the arrest of a Neosho kindergarten teacher on six counts of endangering the welfare of a minor.
The following passage was included in the Joplin Globe’s article about the incident:
“(Debra Scott) is accused of driving six female juveniles to a home in Diamond at 12:45 a.m. on July 16 so the group could dump a toilet, two dead armadillos and several bags of trash onto the front yard, according to the complaint filed in Associate Division of Newton County Circuit Court.
“ ‘Debra stated that they were not there for a long time due to being chased off by large dogs,’ a Newton County sheriff’s deputy wrote in the probable cause affidavit accompanying the complaint.”
If these allegations are true, then Ms. Scott has created a problem that is as big for the Neosho R-5 School District as the teacher who foolishly sent nude photos of herself over the Internet a few years back.
What in the world ever happened to common sense?
When you sign a teaching contract, you obligate yourself to act as a role model for young people. You don’t e-mail nude pictures of yourself, you don’t act inappropriately around students or adults, and you definitely don’t act as a chauffeur, apparently giving tacit approval to six teenage vandals.
Immediately after the news of Ms. Scott’s arrest became public, the comments began flowing on the Neosho Daily News and Joplin Globe websites. Most were directly critical of Ms. Scott’s alleged behavior, but some used the arrest as an indictment of all teachers.
Has anyone bothered to check how many teachers in the Neosho R-5 School District have been arrested in the past few years? Only one, if memory serves correctly. Ms. Scott.
Unfortunately, the talk about the Neosho school district now is all about Debra Scott. And that is a shame. The district’s classrooms are filled with teachers who do their jobs day after day, preparing the next generation for success, teachers who would never dream of bringing disgrace on their school or their profession as Ms. Scott is accused of doing.
The reason these horrific incidents with teachers stand out in our minds is because these things are extremely unusual. We all can think of a teacher or two who should never have entered a classroom. But for every one of those teachers, there are thousands who would never dream of crossing the line and doing something that would not only embarrass the profession, but even worse, damage the lives of the young people whose education is their responsibility.
I have been fortunate in my schooling at Triway and East Newton, and during the last 10 years teaching, first at Diamond Middle School, and then at South Middle School in Joplin to come across hundreds of teachers, nearly all of whom have taken seriously their status as role models to impressionable young people, many of whom do not have such role models outside of school.
Those are the teachers who should be receiving the publicity. It is a shame when the good work done on a daily basis by hundreds of thousands of teachers all across the United States can be undone in the public eye by a few bad apples.