What about perv teachers?

Posted: January 30, 2014

THE GOOD FOLKS at Faith Christian Academy in Sellersville didn't return my call yesterday. So I didn't get to ask what they made of the allegation by the Bucks County District Attorney's Office that the academy never reported a staff perv to police.

Instead, the academy allowed him to quietly slither away.

That perv would be one Eric Romig, 36, who was a coach at Faith Christian when he resigned "for health reasons" following accusations that he made sexual advances toward two female students in 2008 and 2009.

Romig got a new coaching gig at Pennridge High School, where he went trawling again. On Monday, he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a female student there. He had sex with her and traded explicit texts, videos and photos.

That poor, poor kid.

So Romig faces jail time, which ought to keep the creep away from young girls for a while. But where's the jail time for anyone at Faith Christian who knew about Romig's alleged predilection for underage females but took no action to keep children safe beyond the school walls?

Why didn't they pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1?

We've posed that question for years to leaders in the Roman Catholic Church who moved predatory priests from parish to parish, where they were free to reoffend, rather than report them to authorities. The real church scandal isn't that the abuse happened; it's that it was aided and abetted by higher-ups who chose to protect the church's assets and reputation rather than its children.

Similar crimes play out every day in this country's public and private schools, aided and abetted not by scandal-averse religious leaders but by bean-counting, bloodless administrators. They decide it's quicker, cheaper and more efficient to let a perv go than to fire him for cause, alert the authorities and save other kids from being victimized.

In 1998 alone, points out Terri Miller, the Department of Justice reported more than 103,000 cases of sexual abuse in U.S. schools, most of which involved a teacher. That one-year total dwarfs the number of individuals who allege they were abused as minors by priests - 16,795, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops - between 1950 and 2012.

"So why aren't we at least as focused on teacher abuse as we are on priest abuse?" asks Miller.

She is president of SESAME (Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation). It's a national advocacy group pushing for state and federal laws that would end the practice of "passing the trash" - a revolting phenomenon in which educators investigated for abuse are allowed to resign and get a new job at a new school.

"The numbers are staggering," she says.

The problem is that sexual abuse by educators, as opposed to sexual abuse by priests, is a decentralized horror. U.S. schools are broken down by state, county, town and district; some are private; all have their own leaderships - unlike the Catholic Church, which answers to a very obvious authority in Rome.

Say what you will (oh, and I have . . . ) about the church's continuing lack of transparency about its scandal. At least we know where and at whom to level our collective outrage.

Not so with our fractured school system. But "hard to monitor" is a pathetic excuse for the trash to keep passing.

In Pennsylvania, state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams has made a valiant effort to stop the practice.

His Pa. Senate Bill 46 would require schools to find out whether a potential hire was ever subject to an investigation for sexual misconduct or abuse by the state's Child Protective Services. It also would require a district to learn whether an applicant had been disciplined, discharged, nonrenewed or asked to resign from a job (or to surrender a teaching certificate) while a probe or allegations were pending.

Inexplicably, the bill, which has strong bipartisan support, is languishing in the House, awaiting a full vote. If there's a God, people will stop playing politics and make it law already.

But what about kids beyond our borders?

Nationally, bills are working their way through Congress to establish criminal and civil penalties for employers who allow sex abusers to work in another state. Among other things, they'd establish a national clearinghouse of offender names that can be accessed by schools in other states. Shepherded by our own U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, the bills can't become laws soon enough.

We need them to remind administrators at schools like Faith Christian Academy that if you don't care enough about kids to help students other than your own to stay safe, you don't deserve to be in the education business.

Oh - and you don't deserve to call yourself Christian, either.


Email: polaner@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-2217

Twitter: @RonniePhilly

Blog: ph.ly/RonnieBlog

Columns: ph.ly/Ronnie

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