Friday, July 20, 2007

A Sad Day

So yesterday Joe White, former principal of Teaneck High School, and vice principal at the time of our tenure at Teaneck High (3 of the 4 of us, anyhow), pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual conversations with a student and to downloading child pornography.

This ordeal has been going on in some form or another since 2002, when Mr. White was first arrested on charges that he fondled a boy who was living in his home. He was acquitted on those charges, on what now seems like a lack of evidence rather than innocence, though I probably shouldn't speculate, but was then arrested again in 2006 on these current charges.

Given that this has been in the air for 5 years now, I guess I can't say that I'm shocked by Mr. White's admission of guilt, though I am still somewhat shocked by his actions. Mr. White's demeanor was literally the opposite of someone who you would think would partake in these types of behaviors. It leads one to wonder if that was a Primal Fear kind of smoke screen, or if he really just has two enormously disparate parts of his personality. The person I know and the acts that he has admitted to really don't match at all.

So I'm saddened by this turn of events. Someone who I had a lot of respect for has done something that, by any account, was enormously inappropriate and irresponsible, and in addition is just highly illogical. At what point does one decide to act on the feelings that one knows to be inappropriate? I mean, I suppose we are all capable of having "sins of the mind" as Jimmy Carter might say, but choosing to act on them is a huge leap from that. And after already having gotten through essentially unscathed the first time, choosing to continue that behavior, separate of the inappropriateness, is just highly irrational. At what point does one count his blessings and seek some sort of help?

Incidentally, Joe is quoted in the article and I think his thoughts kind of sum it up in an apporpriate way:
"It's like someone telling you the world is flat...He was the most strait-laced, ethical man on the planet. Not in a million years would I ever guess something like this. There has got to be some kind of explanation."


Gold said...

What's really sad is that he's only going to be serving up to a year in jail! Although I suppose having to register as a sex offender is really a lifetime punishment, so I guess that makes it kinda a wash in my mind.

For all intents and purposes, this is his 2nd offense -- that we know about! Allegedly there are other students who were also touched and/or talked to inappropriately but are now over 18 and did not want to participate in the investigation. So this isn't really an isolated incident at all, even if you grant that his acquittal at trial wipes the slate clean from a criminal justice system perspective.

I agree with Jerry that it's irrational to engage in the same risky behavior that almost cost you your job and freedom, to say nothing of the cost of going to trial. But I don't think it's irrational to be attracted to older teenagers (see the sexualized commoditization of pop stars like Brittany Spears, Lindsay Lohan, etc.)

That being said, I should make it clear that I think it's never okay to act on those feelings when you work with and have power over teenagers (certainly not with the ones you're working with!)

But if you really want to make some sense of how a respected lifelong educator could throw it all away to satisfy a sexual desire, try looking at Joe White's life through the lens of a deeply closeted homosexual whose been (and perhaps still is) heavily influenced by the teachings of the Black Church and I think it begins to make more sense. (Hat tip to Daffy for first bringing the closet case view to my attention.)

"That's your husband! That's your husband!" -- to be said in Talia Shire's voice at the end of The Godfather.

Joe said...

"For all intents and purposes, this is his 2nd offense -- that we know about! Allegedly there are other students who were also touched and/or talked to inappropriately but are now over 18 and did not want to participate in the investigation."

Man, if a judge sentenced someone on a previous acquittal and heresay, that shit would be overturned in a heartbeat.

Gold said...

Okay that's true, but even without considering those facts, you're telling me that "up to a year", is the typical sentence given out for these crimes? He was facing up to 10 years! Even with the plea, it seems like he got a pretty sweet deal! But I guess that's why they call them plea BARGAINS.