Additional charges have been brought against Providence PE teacher, James Duffy, according to reporting by Dan McGowan and Walt Buteau of WPRI. And he will have his day in court. But a recent statement by his attorney reveals a total lack of understanding —ignorance, in face— when it comes to the abuse of children by adults in positions of authority. Putting aside the very long careers we saw among Priests and Penn State football coaches, the national data is unequivocal that predatory teachers jump from school to school, district to district, and state to state, often for decades before being discovered.
“My client has been a Providence school teacher in good standing for almost 30 years,” Calcagni said. “He would not have made it this far in life, or in his career as a teacher, is he had a tendency, disposition or character for abusing children. His reputation and record in the Providence School Department is beyond reproach. We very much look forward to his day in court so that his innocence may be proven and his reputation restored.”
Has this attorney not followed the local boarding school cases of sexual abuse? Those stories alone should have been enough to keep him from making such an ill informed and demonstrably false statement.
But, we here at Good School Hunting are happy to provide a crash for Mr. Calcagni, Esquire, about the very serious and far too common issue sexual abuse in America’s schools that far too many have turned a blind eye to for decades.
On the heels of a very high profile sexual abuse case, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has instituted a code of conduct for staff. Not only will this protect students but it will also protect fellow staff members from the inappropriate conduct of a small fraction of their colleagues. And it will hopefully motivate any other districts dragging their heels to act swiftly regarding allegations of abuse.
Some may wonder why this was needed or why it is newsworthy.
A teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland was recently sentenced to 40 years in prison on 39 counts of sexual abuse of children in his classroom over the course of almost three decades. His victims were girls in kindergarten through second grade who were photographed and videotaped in sexually suggestive poses and touched inappropriately. He even had the name of one of his victims tattooed on his shoulder. He captioned his photos of the girls with fantasies of molestation.
This may help too:
From the most prestigious boarding schools in New England to the poorest schools in Los Angeles, equal-opportunity evildoers are on the payroll. It has long been clear that, as the Catholic Church did, districts and school leaders have sat by for years or even decades while known abusers have moved on to work in other schools in different states.
The practice of recommending teachers suspected of abuse even has its own moniker of “passing the trash” and it has been allowed to go on because, as with the Catholic Church scandal, too many leaders have shown a total lack of courage and moral fortitude to stand up for children. Luckily, a few have.
One in ten American students will be a victim of sexual misconduct by a school employee between kindergarten and twelfth grade. That is 5 million children in America and more than 14,000 here in Rhode Island. And while there are important legal distinctions between misconduct and abuse that are important, there is no excuse for our General Assembly not to do what Connecticut has done and make it illegal for school employees to have sex with students who attend their school, regardless of their age. Educators and staff in our school buildings and those elected to represent us on Smith Hill share in the responsibility of making this a priority.
We do not yet know whether Mr. Duffy is guilty or innocent. But we do know a lot about the very real problem of sexual abuse in our schools and there are far too many cases of teachers terrorizing children for decades for someone as well educated as Mr. Calcagni to imply otherwise.
So yes, sir, it is highly possible—even common—for people to have long and successful lives despite their tendency to prey on children. Let’s hope that your client isn’t one of them.