If the Riverside School District 96 Board of Education believes it can simply weather the controversy regarding the actions of one of its principals by simply huddling in a bunker, it's mistaken.
Since the Landmark exposed the complicated, outrageous series of events that led to the termination of a part-time teacher in the fall of 2011, members of the school board have failed to either grasp the extent of the outrage or willingly disbelieve all of the inconsistencies leading to their conclusion that all is well.
Dozens of people appeared at the District 96 board meeting in late November. And while a warning speech given by the board president had its intended effect of muting public questions or comments related to the matter, the board's handling of the one question that did get asked is a forehead slapper.
What is boils down to is this: Even if the board believes that the teacher's termination is unrelated to the criminal charges reported against her; even if the board believes the principal did the right thing in reporting the accusations of sexual abuse against the teacher to the police; then how on earth was the teacher allowed to remain in a classroom inside Ames School for two full weeks after police were notified of the accusations?
Were children at risk or were they not? Did the principal dutifully follow policies laid out by the district, as she did in reporting the matter to police in the first place, or did she apply the policies in a selective way?
Is there any sanction for selectively applying policies, especially when it comes to grave criminal accusations against people who are in contact with children on a daily basis? If so, how was the principal disciplined for allowing that to happen?
The board president's response to this question?
"We're not going to tell you."
The public is getting tired of the stonewalling.
If the board thought it could limit the distribution of the police report around which this whole issue swirls, they already know that it was email blasted over the weekend to more than 80 people in Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside — the board members were copied on the email. Maybe they'll get around to reading it this time.
Because the fact remains that the termination of the teacher and the accusations laid out in the police report, while the board may want to believe them to be separate events, are inextricably linked.
And a reading of the police report leads to one of two conclusions — either people should be going to jail for committing heinous acts against children (a conclusion rejected by multiple police and social service agencies) or someone purposely tried to destroy the reputations and careers of innocent people.
The board cannot hide from its duty to confront the whole story. The community should not let them.