Hillsboro teacher arrested for child abuse

Gregg Martin Jensen was arrested last Friday for abusing one of his students.  The Oregonian reports that he was charged with “sexual abuse, luring a minor and encouraging child sexual abuse.”  If guilty, let’s hope that Mr. Jensen doesn’t see the outside world for a long, long time.

But what gets me about this is the school’s reaction.  Instead of sympathy, we see defensiveness and minimization:

Communications Director Beth Graser said the district has been pointing concerned parents to police statements about the case and asking students not to speculate or spread rumors.

“It’s just hard because things like this happen and people want answers,” she said. “No one anywhere can provide an ironclad guarantee that nothing (like this) is ever going to happen.”

Nice strawman, Ms. Graser.  What, “everyone else has molesters, so it’s ok that the school had one”?  Is that really the best statement from the school after one of its students gets molested? 

What the public needs is not an “ironclad guarantee” but a reasonable response, and policies that prevent this from happening.  It’s early yet (and perhaps Ms. Graser should have just offered her sympathy, encouraged other victims to come forward, and say that it was too early to tell what happened), but in the hundreds of child abuse cases I’ve been involved in, almost all of them had times where a strictly enforced policy or a mindful co-worker could have cut short or prevented the abuse.  The predator doesn’t own a magic portal or invisible cloak, so most likely someone, at some point, saw something and either didn’t talk or was told to shut up.

Instead of accepting responsibility and seeking healing (& one can apologize for the abuse happening without accepting legal liability), what we see from the School in the Oregonian is preemptive spin, disclaiming of responsibility, and an attempt to squelch “rumors”—or more likely any discussion of the case at all in the school.  There is nothing at the school’s website even mentioning the abuse or advocating that victims come forward.

Creepy predatory teachers are nothing new to Oregon, and the school should know that while rumor-mongering about potential victims should be strongly discouraged, talking about the case and raising concerns are healthy.  If another child or children have been abused, they will only feel empowered to come forward in an environment that is supportive and accepts its responsibility to keep children safe.

Liberty High doesn’t sound like the kind of place where a victim would feel comfortable coming forward.  Maybe that’s why this creep Jensen got away with it for at least a little while.

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