Saturday, July 14, 2012

I Did What Joe Pa Didn't: I Reported

Early in my teaching career, 1984 to be exact, I did what Joe Paterno didn't do: I reported my suspicion of child molestation of several seventh grade students by a colleague. And I bypassed policy to do it.

Here's the story:

At the time I was teaching in Urbana, Iowa at a k-12 school of about 500 students. It was my first year in the district, and I was five months pregnant. Christmas vacation beckoned when three girls came to me and told me a story about the school counselor, Ross Lamansky, and their discomfort in his presence and his having touched them in ways that made them uncomfortable.

State law required individuals to report to the "building supervisor." Suspecting that the incident would be brushed under the proverbial carpet, I chose, instead, to report to the Grant Wood Area Education Association psychologist who was visiting out building that day; she notified the proper authorities.

Mr. Lamansky had quite the history of deviancy. He had hopped from district to district until he landed in one of the smallest, lowest paid ones in the state. The initial Waterloo Courier story reads:

A guidance counselor and junior high girls basketball and Softball coach with the Urbana Com- munity School District has been rested and charged with three counts of indecent contact with a female child Ross Arnold Lamansky 52 was arrested by the Benton County Sheriffs Department at his home Monday night following an tion by the county and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation The charges involve three old girls Lamansky is accused of touching the covering the breast of a girl in ber 1984 the inner thigh of a girl in December 1984 and the clothing ering the inner thigh of a girl in December 1984 according to the charges The first two incidents took place in Urbana while the third occurred in Shellsburg according to the sheriff's department Because job status with the school district has not been determined district Superintendent Owen Rentschler declined to say Tuesday whether the incidents curred during school functions Lamansky who has been with the district about two years teaches two junior high mathematics in addition to bis coaching and ing duties However Rentschler did say dis- officials notified the parents of the girls involved about the incidents when they became known to school officials School district officials en- the parents to contact the county attorney's office the alleged acts State law prohibits school district officials from making a complaint to county authorities based on mation involving students said Presently all school officials can do is notify the parents Obviously the law heeds to be Rentschler said School officials will be meeting with school district students this week to calm any fears and explain the situation Rentschler said The school district was unaware of past record Rentschler said The record includes two sex charges in 1971 in Linn County Lamansky was charged twice with lewdness and indecent exposure One of the charges was dismissed while a grand jury was unable to return an indictment on the second charge for lack of evidence Lamansky is being held at the Benton County Jail in lieu of bond and was expected to appear before a magistrate at 1 p.m today 

I have no clue as to the number of victims victims he left in his wake, but I did learn from the police investigator that he had been known as "the hooded grabber" in Kirkwood, Missouri, where he often stood on a street corner at night and attempted to grab female body parts of unsuspecting passing women.

The Urbana Community School split loyalties, with those supporting Mr. Lamansky wearing black armbands to school in support of him. Many included the high school students who had no knowledge of Lamansky's past.

I attended the girls' depositions and was ready to leave for the trial when a plea deal was struck: Two counts of indecent contact with a minor, a short stint in jail and revocation of his Iowa teaching license.

During the ordeal, which lasted several months, I cried frequently and slept seldom. I felt guilty for having reported. I dreamed about Lamansky sitting in jail. I felt sorry for him.

But I don't regret having reported or my choice to circumvent the system.

As a result of the Lamansky case, legislators had the foresight to recognize the flaws in the reporting requirements and changed them to require teachers, child care workers, and others report directly to the proper law-enforcement agency.

I was twenty-six years old, powerless, and poor at the time I tattled on another teacher.

Since the Jerry Sandusky predatory behavior came to light, I've thought often about the events early in my career.

Unlike the Penn State officials, Spanier, Schultz, Curley, and Paterno, I don't mind being made a tad uncomfortable if my discomfort protects kids. That's the most important thing: The safety and comfort of children. I hope that's at least part of my teaching legacy.