Backing off Moral Panic over Abuse


Moral panics can destroy lives, and the Providence Teachers Union is right to object to policies that give children the power to bump their teachers out of class, at least temporarily.  Ted Nesi and Tim White report for WPRI:

The Providence Teachers Union is asking the city’s school department to change the way it handles allegations of abuse against students in order to prevent its members from being placed on administrative leave without reasonable cause.

In a letter to Superintendent Chris Maher, the union claimed students have been “emboldened to make allegations at a whim knowing that the teacher will be removed from the building with no questions asked,” with some “taunting teachers with threats” of contacting the R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families with abuse claims.

Students have to be protected, of course, but giving them that sort of power is reckless.  Trying to control the issue through punishments is also the wrong approach.  Schools shouldn’t want to put themselves in the position that they’ve created an incentive for false accusations and then have to do harm to students’ future prospects because they were drawn in by that incentive.

We need to back off the notion that we can protect everybody from harm with top-down policies and instead allow human judgment to play a role.  Another aspect of that approach is to dilute our sense that human beings are psychologically fragile to the point that every inappropriate word or touch should be assumed to have scarring damage.

  • Mike678

    Well said.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “Judgment” is the last thing government, or government workers want, that leads to responsibility. They much prefer to avoid it all with “everyone gets treated the same” (unless, of course, you’re wired). I was chilled the other day to read an article about the possibility of bringing Artificial Intelligence to make government decisions.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      A little fairness. The government systems discourages the exercise of judgment except at the highest levels. For worker bees, subject to the seniority systems, good judgment can avail you nothing. Bad judgment can kill a career.
      Here is an example that frosted me. I had a guy living in a few rooms of my house, in exchange for roofing and siding the barn. He moved a girl (45) in. The night before Thanksgiving, the police arrive at my door at 11 pm. They are looking for the couple on the second floor. assuming they have been called, I let them in. Although I had heard nothing I assumed the woman was in trouble. (I still don’t know what occurred). Ten minutes later, the fire department ambulance arrives. They take the guy (medium sized) away. He has obviously been beaten unconscious. I was told he had “gotten a little out of hand”. As is frequently the case, the woman bailed him before 10 AM the next morning. The following Monday I received a call from the Fire Department. They have to inspect my house because the para medics didn’t see a smoke detector on the second floor. When they arrive, I ask “the Para medics find a medium sized guy, surrounded by three large guys, and beaten unconscious; and all they have to report is that they didn’t see a smoke detector”. Their reply “We only attend to medical issues”. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      • Rhett Hardwick

        Just thought of an exercise of “judgment” I approve of. I may have mentioned that I have a neighbor of about 70, he immigrated from Canada at age 14 when his father died. He has led a successful life and married a nurse. Several years ago he decided it was time to become a citizen. His application was held up by Homeland Security because he admitted to being arrested in 1967 for “driving to endanger” (drag racing). The appropriate court could not provide evidence that he had appeared on the charge. It ended up before a Immigration Judge (ALJ, I believe). The judge mentioned “I see you are a veteran”. which was responded to positively. He then asked are you a “combat veteran”. Another positive response. “How long in combat”, “4 months, 7 days”. The judge extended his hand and said “Welcome home”.

        Reminds me of another. I knew a guy back in the 90’s who had a rather substantial construction loan from a “savings bank” He was completely current on his obligations.The government seized his bank (the “savings & loan crisis”). The government decided to investigate all borrowers. They tried to call his loan because he had written a bad check in 1957.