A few months ago, this blog, other blogs, and numerous Jacksonville news sources reported or commented upon the cancellation of the play Indecent at the nationally-renowned high school for the arts, Douglas Anderson, informally called DA.
Something was INDECENT at the school and that’s an understatement! What began as just another story about a predatory teacher has ripped the cover off what is now described as a toxic culture going back decades. At this point, the accused teacher has been arrested, two others are being investigated (to be fair, we don’t know for what, but they have been removed from contact with students), and the school system is in full damage control.
Suffice it to say that the investigations are ongoing, but the district is bringing in outsiders. The school board does not want an internal investigation (cue the bomp bomp doom music.) They have asked for recommendations of independent attorney firms to hire from their first stop for legal advice, the Office of General Counsel, an agency of the city government. (It’s a feature of Jacksonville’s consolidated government and it is complicated.)
The Superintendent is busy trying to address the ongoing issues. She wants to bring in a South Florida consultant firm with expertise in establishing an appropriate culture at specialized arts schools like DA. She has communicated to families that changes are coming amidst internal investigations and encouraged anyone with information to come forward.
At last count, law enforcement agencies have identified 140 current and former students they would like to talk to.
Too late. People are already beginning to lawyer up and their attorneys are telling their clients not to talk to anyone who is not from a law enforcement agency.
This is huge. How long before this becomes national news? The revelations are only beginning and, of course, the state has started to poke their nose into the controversy.
- If you read all the reports carefully, the school board is staking out an independent position from the superintendent. They don’t want an internal investigation; they want to hire outside counsel. They don’t trust the superintendent or district staff to do the job.
- The superintendent cannot claim lack of knowledge. If she didn’t know, she should have known. In 2021, the district reported the arrested teacher to Florida’s Department of Children and Families (the agency charged with the responsibility of protecting children) and the Department of Education’s Professional Practices Office. It begs belief to think that even in the nation’s 20th largest school district that the superintendent would not have been informed of allegations of indecent conduct by an employee. It’s not that common.
- This has legs–as the expression goes. How much money will the district have to pay in compensation to the victims by the time all is known? Poor teachers, that property tax referendum for operational expenses, the one that was going mostly to raise your salaries, will now be needed to pay the many settlements that will come over the next few years.
- Truly, to use an expression from the late Queen of England, this has been Diana Greene’s annus horribilis*. She cannot run from this scandal like she did in 2018 when she left her subordinate, Cynthia Saunders, to deal with the allegations that they had pushed 12th grade students into home school or other options in their last semester to avoid taking a hit to their graduation rate. Both scandals started before her but continued under her leadership.
- But that’s what comes with a leader obsessed with data and test performance. Other things that ought not to be ignored go unnoticed.
*Cancellation of the JASMYN contract, cancellation of the Indecent production, removal of books from libraries and classrooms, cancellation of the risky behavior survey, removal of Safe Space stickers, the choice office publishing the lottery results for magnet schools too early … the list goes on. The superintendent would do better to be the featured bovine in a game of cow pie bingo.
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