Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Dirty old man

A prestigious school in our vicinity is headed by a principal who touches girls. I'd heard about this a couple of years ago from one of the teachers. I had asked her then, is this a known thing? Do other teachers know about it? She'd said yes, they all knew. I'd said, and he is still the principal of the school? She said yes he is. I said how? Why? She said you know how it is. Some teachers are his bootlickers. Those who aren't, still don't want to rock the boat. And finally these things happen behind closed doors. It'll be his word against ours. His word against the word of girls who've been touched, I asked. She widened her eyes and said oh the girls won't speak. They'd be too scared. He's the principal after all and their future is in his hands.

It was a conversation that had lodged in my mind like a little worm. Last week the mother of a girl who goes to the school was having lunch with me. I asked her, is it true that the school principal touches girls? She said yes he does. I said you know about this. Yes, she said. So what have you done to protect your daughter, I asked. Have you complained? She said a mother of a girl who had been touched had called her and a dozen other mothers about the problem. They had decided to get together and decide on a plan. On the day of the meeting only my lunch guest was present. What could just the two of us do, she asked. What indeed!

This morning I was talking to the grandmother of a girl who attends the school. I asked her if she knew about the principal. She said of course I've known about it for years. I said so what have you done? She said I mentioned it to my son. He told her if she's every called to the principal's room to take a friend along. Oh, I said. And suppose he puts his hands on both girls? She shuddered at the idea and said that's why I'm so worried. Someone should send an anonymous letter to the Trustees. Or someone should tell this man's wife. But why can parents not get together and complain, I said. I don't think it's always a good idea to be confrontationist, she said. A roundabout way is often more effective. So has "someone" taken a roundabout route, I asked. I should talk to my son again, she said.

I am appalled. The principal of this elite school has got away for years with his illicit pleasures and those who should care most for their children's welfare, the parents, sit like scared mice in their dark little holes. The shocking thing is that these parents are some of the most influential people in our society--CEOs and suchlikes. If they chose to speak out, the media and all its uncles would be on the principal's tail. So what kind of fear is it that clams them up?

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