A local school system just settled by giving a family almost $700k for a teacher locking a younger, smaller, disabled boy into the office with an older boy who routinely sexually abused him. The teacher told the courts that this younger disabled boy had “consented” to this. The judge, thank goodness, tossed that back into the teacher’s stupid face.

So I mentioned that I know a neighborhood girl (yes, I really do know several), who’s stated a teacher in the same district is acting inappropriately toward her. She hasn’t told her parents. I don’t know the teacher’s name. She was merely asking for advice.

I said that this is a big issue the adults really need to handle for her, and to let her parents know. Oh, and here’s an app that will help you prove he’s doing this, and it’ll only look like you put your hand in your pocket.

Now I got some dumbass telling me I should be ashamed of myself for not doing something about it. Really? Like what?

This neighbor tells me it’s my civic duty to go to the girl’s school, obtain her schedule, figure which are the male teachers, and accuse at least one.

Yes, sexual abuse of a minor is deplorable, at best.

Yes, the guilty must be punished, preferably in a jail with real criminals who will help him understand the true difference between consent and coercion.

But, let me make this very, very, very clear …

If you don’t know who the perpetrator is, and the victim is unwilling to tell the adults who legally have authority to look into the matter, you do not have the right to break the law or re-victimize someone just because you happen to think you know what’s best.

Maybe you’re right. But if you don’t have a single fact, chances are pretty slim. Even more so if it’s outside your locus of control.

How would this same person feel if I did this to her daughter? If I went to her daughter’s school, obtained her daughter’s schedule without the mother’s permission, and made seemingly wild accusations about any teacher who happens to be male?

At a minimum, I’m betting this mother would be outraged that someone outside the family would even try to do this. She may even sue the school for letting me do it, and press charges against me because I took the onus upon myself to “do my civic duty” without any real information. She may even rail my name in the news because I interfered into her daughter’s life and the family’s private matters.

Yes, this is a terrible situation. Yes, I wish I could fix it for her.

There are many excellent reasons why I can’t. And shouldn’t.

It is especially important to be an adult now, and act rationally, even though every fiber of me wants to rip someone to shreds.

People, if you truly want to help, figure out how to put safeguards in place so this doesn’t happen. Ensure victims have safe places and people available to tell their stories to.

But first, do no (more) harm.

This, above almost any other issue many normal adults have to deal with in their lifetimes, absolutely must be handled legally and with respect to the victim and family.

Give the victim realistic advice. Not just go tell the principal. Clearly the school system doesn’t give a shit. It went on for a year even though another child and his family brought it up several times.

Is it reasonable for this girl to think it’ll work out any better or easier for her?

I know that it seems like a lot of the laws protect the guilty. They’re actually there to protect the innocent. We’re now seeing way too many instances where the person found guilty gets incarcerated, maybe even on death row, really was innocent. Years, maybe even decades later, the innocent person is exonerated and set free. Meanwhile the guilty party was out there getting away with murder, assault, and so on.

A few hundred years ago, we weren’t packed in like sardines. It was a lot easier to say it’s more important to let the guilty go free than to call the wrong man guilty. But the weapons weren’t as powerful. The number of people packed into any space (except slaves’ quarters, which was also and still is a crime against humanity) made it difficult to harm more than a few at a time, and those times were likely spread across months or years, rather than days, or even hours or minutes.

The laws haven’t kept up with the capability to do great harm.

But that doesn’t mean it’s up to me to show blatant disregard to someone who trusts me, further victimize her when she’s at her most fragile, and do so without the permission of her or those legally responsible for her wellbeing.

What is up to me is to make sure I provide a safe place for her to talk, and repeatedly encourage her to seek assistance from the people who really can help. I cannot make her do anything because I am not legally responsible for her. Nor can I do anything “for” her, because I am not her guardian.

I can’t even hug or hold her because then I could be seen as the creeper. Any lawyer would pick that apart in a heartbeat … well of course you want the family to accuse the teacher, to withdraw attention from yourself.

Now I can’t even be a decent human being, all because the real assholes know how to get away with it for their own nefarious reasons, whereas I don’t because I’ve never done anything that required figuring out how to get away with it.

Too bad there are so many vigilantes who’d rather make things worse instead of solve the problem. Let’s just accuse a male teacher! Someone must pay!

Um, no. The guilty person must pay. And only the guilty person. Not the person who held out a helping hand, not the victim’s family, and most definitely not the victim.

Don’t allow yourself to get so outraged by these news stories that you become part of the problem. Use these stories to guide your actions to make things better.

And most importantly, stop being a dumbass who thinks you have all the answers, because you don’t.

Picture credit http://i.bnet.com/blogs/extra-extra-mashablebelle.jpg