Thirteen years ago to the day, I was presented notice that I’d been a named defendant in a federally filed lawsuit. In my work as a speech-language pathologist program support teacher, I was brought in to help “fix” a case gone awry. The “case” was a then- 3-year-old child whose father had been recently relieved of his employment responsibilities (he was fired) from the school district.
I was called to the scene to represent the Speech-Language Disabilities Program. The school SLP who’d been working with the child was unable to communicate effectively with this parent–weren’t we all??–so I was a neutral SLP. Wasn’t attached to the school, the student, or the parents, so my role was to represent theoretical best practices, and develop an appropriate IEP (individualized education plan, the special education vehicle for services) for this little girl. I was to be the unemotional outsider.
I asserted then, and stand fast to this day, that the district acted in the best interest of the child. Therapy services were delivered as the IEP required, but after the father physically assaulted the school principal, he, not his daughter, was restrained from school property. It made speech therapy at that site, shall we say, something of a challenge for the family to attend.
The guy requested mediation. Mediation in the special education process is about what you’d expect. Two parties engage in discussions, mediated by a neutral legal presence, and develop a consensus plan. Our side was “successful” (lots of quotes here tonight, friends) in the school board’s directive to “make this guy stop calling me every night.” A plan that I disliked but had to live with was developed, and to this day I am bound not to discuss the mediation with anyone outside that room. The plan assigned a third SLP to provide services, and she did so with the utmost professionalism. Because this family’s beef was never actually about therapy for the child, the father then filed for a due process hearing, which went entirely, wholly in favor of the school district. He filed complaints with the Department of Public Instruction, all of which were found to be groundless.
Having failed in all previous legal outlets, his swan song was to sue me and other named individuals, including past and future school board members, two district superintendents, various high-ranking district special education officials and a partridge in a pear tree in federal court. The feds laughed him out of the courts, wouldn’t even hear the vaguest rumblings of it from this yahoo, and at long last, he went away. PS–it really never was about his daughter, who was appropriately served and dismissed from services when her communication goals were met.
I’ve never forgotten that my maternity leave was interrupted by this suit. My then-boss came to my home to visit me and my week-old infant to tell me that I’d been served, so to speak. She had the decency and respect for me to tell me to my face. She was an amazing leader, a talented supervisor whose lessons were many, but chief among them: always find a way to do the right thing if it’s good for kids.
Two weeks ago, I was informed that this man had been arrested. This man who sold himself and narcissistically viewed himself as an exemplary father, so committed to his daughter’s education that he had to “right the wrongs” done to his daughter (none). So full of self-righteousness and straight-up crazy (well, I do have a psychology minor) was he that assaulting a school principal and pursuing every single legal remedy known in the special education realm was his duty, I imagine he would say. He’s a great dad, I know he would say. I heard him say it, I remember.
But great dads don’t use computers to solicit sex with underage boys. Great dads don’t have sex with underage boys. Multiple boys. Multiple times. Pretty sure that’s not good for kids. He goes to jury trial November 7, and if the allegations prove true, well. . .
Someone asked me if hearing about the trial left me feeling vindicated. It hasn’t. Someone asked if I felt karma had done what karma does. I don’t. I’m not happy or relieved or feeling anything good about it. This man did the unthinkable. This man has children, and was having sex with children his son’s age. Allegedly. Multiple times. No, I don’t feel good about that. I’m not smirking or fist-bumping or told-you-so-ing.
I’m appalled. I’m offended. His path of self-righteous wrongness continued to spiral from inappropriate and ridiculous to criminal. His court record is lengthy, and this is not something to rejoice in. It’s one thing to mess with my professional life, but quite another to mess with a child’s mind and body. I will never understand. Ever.