Life can be a mix of so many things – good and bad and in between. Tellingly, there are times when the chickens, in fact, do come home to roost.
Child abuse is bad in any form. Child abuse at the hands of adults employed by Portland (Oregon) Public Schools is only UNknown by those who truly do not know.
BlackParentSpeaks feels inclined to ‘tell the truth and shame the devil’ as my ‘late’ friend and confidant ‘Black’ Mrs. Matthews often said.
We received the call asking that we attend a private meeting called by the then-Superintendent of Portland (Oregon) Public Schools. We were told that our presence was vital and we were told the location.
Neither Mrs. Matthews nor BlackParentSpeaks knew beforehand the turn that that meeting would take. We had no clue as to what would be revealed at that off-site meeting and, apparently, neither did the then-Superintendent of Portland Public Schools (PPS).
Mrs. Matthews and I arrived at the location early – as was often our tendency. As others arrived – including the then-Superintendent, we were told the ground rules. I expressed that I would be recording the meeting for however long I was able. All who were present agreed.
We were told that changes in staff were being considered at a particular PPS elementary school. US community members and PPS administration persons who were at the ‘private’ meeting were told that staff at the ‘particular’ school had quietly contacted the then-Superintendent with demands.
As the meeting and discussion progressed, we were informed that staff of the ‘particular’ elementary school would be arriving soon to testify in confidence as to ‘why’ their demands should be met. The then-Superintendent said that the promise had been given to school staff that whatever each said in the meeting would be kept confidential. The Superintendent explained that staff was worried about possible retaliation — thus, the need for confidentiality.
The Superintendent asked if I — BlackParentSpeaks — would honor the staff’s request for confidentiality. I responded that I was still going to record the meeting. I did, however, agree to honestly consider the request because I knew that retaliation was a reality.
Staff from the school arrived and the then-Superintendent laid down the format. Each staff member was to speak with us in private – without other staff being present to overhear what was said. The Superintendent also informed all that I – an active and known ‘Black’ community member — would be recording the meeting.
The Superintendent assured staff that whatever each said would be held in confidence by the Superintendent’s office. I expressed that if anyone had problems with me recording the meeting, I would leave. All agreed to me staying and recording the meeting.
One by one each staff member entered the area where we were and told his and/or her story. The stories were ugly and foul. We were told of inappropriate sexual contact between particular staff and particular elementary-school-age-students. We were told of many wrong things at the school, however, the sexual abuse of children was uppermost in my thoughts as I continued to listen. Appalled, I kept my silence as I scanned the faces of all who were present.
At some point, I forgot about the recording and was nudged by Mrs. Matthews as a reminder to continue recording the meeting.
Eventually, we had listened to all the staff who had came to express their displeasure with the Principal and to present their ‘demands’. (As information, every staff person who testified before us was White.)
I proceeded to call each staff member back into our area to answer my questions. My questions included:
l. Did you personally or any other staff member – to your knowledge — ever tell the Principal about the child sexual abuse at the hands of PPS staff at the school?
2. If you are telling us the truth now, why did you deny that such had occurred years ago when you were contacted by the parent and the media regarding sexual abuse by staff at your school?
3. How many other children, to your own personal knowledge, were or have been sexually abused at your school?
4. Why have you waited until now to reveal this and why in this kind of a forum?
5. Did you personally witness sexual abuse at your school?
6. Why did not you stop staff and protect the child?
7. Did you personally or any other staff member – to your knowledge – ever contact the Superintendent of PPS regarding knowledge of the abuses you are now revealing to us?
8. Why did you and other staff decide to deny the abuse and to falsify facts even when one child and her parent went public on TV claiming that such abuse had happened at your school?
9. Has any child at your school ever told you that he or she was fearful of or being sexually or inappropriately ‘touched’ by a teacher or other staff member at your school?
As I asked question after question of each of the staff members, it became more than evident that I was angry and blamed all who had knowledge of the now-revealed sexual abuse. I was not concerned about any of the other allegations – only the sexual abuse of children!
When the school staff was eventually told they could leave, those of us who sat in judgment stayed. The then-Superintendent was also angry and surprised by the revelations; such was stated by the Superintendent to each staff member who testified before us.
If memory serves me well, no one revealed the name of the little ‘White’ child who had reported the abuse to her father so many years ago. I remembered a report on TV – a little child who indicated that she had been subjected to sexual abuse at the school. I vaguely remembered her father – looking angry and then confused as staff at the school denied the child’s allegations. I remembered thinking at the time that surely, if such had happened, at least one of the teachers at that school would have spoken up and defended the child. Instead, all denied that such had occurred – they maligned that little child! Wow!
The meeting I am writing about now was years after the TV news report. I pictured the blurred face of the little child in my memory bank. I recalled the news report on TV. I had no way to know who that child was. I had no way to reach out to that child or her father. There was nothing – absolutely nothing that I could do and I knew that. In spite of that realization, I was angry.
After laying down my demands for CHANGE at that school, we left – with everyone agreeing to my terms.
Sometimes, even BlackParentSpeaks finds herself between a rock and a hard place.
‘Don’t forget our reparations’.
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We are all works in progress.
Undying love for Black people!