Opinion: Protecting Our Youth Is Rec Reform
By Rec Reform for Terrebonne
The recent news regarding coaches/administrators being arrested and investigated at Terrebonne High is disturbing. And yes, as family and friends point out, in America someone is innocent until proven guilty. However, the protection of our youth must always..ALWAYS…be the main priority.
This has obviously not been the case in Terrebonne Parish in years past and some of us in the leadership of the Rec Reform movement know that all too well. Over the past few years, multiple parents, some in tears, have shared stories of coaches preying on their children.
Some of the stories were merely uncomfortable feelings about the way a coach “is always touching and playing with my daughter’s hair”. Other stories were graphic and heartbreaking. In every case, we encouraged the parents to report the issues to the proper authorities. Shockingly, some had been reported and the matter was thought to be “swept under the rug”. In those cases, parents were encouraged to report the behavior to a higher authority or even the media, if they felt so inclined.
But as parents, their first instinct was to try and protect their child from further damage or retribution (which we know firsthand has occurred). Many people seem to have lost faith in the system and the people in positions of power. This is a message that we have shared with elected and appointed officials as well as law enforcement.
The message to our officials was simple: “The fact that parents entrust us with this information, and not you, should deeply bother you.” It certainly bothers us.
Yet, in the face of this reality, what have some of our systems done to protect our children?
WWL-TV reported in December of 2018 that the Terrebonne Parish School system opened their arms and hired the Parish Department Head who resigned after covering up the fact he knew an accused sex predator was coaching a girls TPR All Star team.
School Superintendent Philip Martin was asked by WWL if he was concerned about the person’s ability to protect children. He was quoted saying: “All those things you’re saying I know nothing about..no criminal charges were filed against him. We have no reason to believe he won’t (protect children).”
“Nothing” was known about the biggest, most disturbing news story in Terrebonne Parish? There was “no reason to believe” our children would be protected by the same man who LIED TO HIS BOSSES about a banned coach awaiting trial for felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile and sex trafficking? Not only did he lie to his bosses, but he apparently used our tax dollars to pay for this coach (wearing an ankle monitor) to be in a hotel in Slidell for a weekend with hundreds of teenage girls from Terrebonne and other Parishes. It was only after he was caught in the lie by the media that he resigned as TPR’s Director.
When any system buries their head and opens their arms to a person who did that, what message does it send to a child or parent that wants to come forward? What message does it send to other teachers who may be suspicious of one of their colleagues?
It’s time for our public bodies to protect our children first and reject those who prey or protect the predators. Thankfully, TPR began running background checks after a whistleblower informed Administration. It’s a good start but more must be done.
Rec Reform isn’t simply about a park or consolidation like the status quo leads you to believe. It’s also about bringing justice to anyone who pocketed our tax dollars illicitly. And it is about providing a safe environment for our children on and off of the fields of play.
Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims today…those brave enough to come forward and those who remain anonymous, fearful of a system that has failed many of us in so many ways.
If you would like to report inappropriate behavior, please contact the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office at (985) 876-2500 or the Department of Children & Family Services toll free at (855) 452-5437.
COMING SOON: Protecting Whistle Blowers & Taxpayers
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