After heated debates, school board members voted to suspend a teacher for 5 days following multiple sexual harassment claims.
Teachers are caught up in sexual harassment and assault cases more than ever documented before. This year alone, at least 181 teachers have been arrested for alleged child sex crimes. Just like with critics of the “me too” movement, however, some fear that some of these allegations are false claims done so out of retaliation for one reason or another. But despite opposing views on the matter, a recent case of multiple sexual harassment claims against one teacher sheds light on just how unhinged and confused many school leaders are on how to properly handle these allegations.
According to reports from The Sun Sentinel, WIllie Holmes Jr. was a language arts teacher at the Stranahan High School in South Florida. Two separate students have come forward with allegations of sexual harassment from the teacher. In heated board debates, however, board members were town over how to handle the allegations and discipline the teacher. In the end, the school board merely suspended him for five days, as many ridiculed the board for its lack of action.
According to police reports detailing the separate sexual harassment accusations, one student claims that Holmes had unzipped her jacket last year in order to view her breasts. The student added that he told her to keep it secret so that he didn’t get in trouble. Another student shared reports detailing inappropriate text messages the teacher sent her after he had told her she looked good and asked for her phone number. At one point, he apparently asked the student to download WhatsApp, a popular text messaging app that allows people to secretly communicate. He told the student that he would send her images of “something really big.”
With the information presented to the school board regarding multiple sexual harassment allegations against the teacher, members were torn on how to handle the situation and ultimately reprimanded him with only five days off the job. It is unclear if those days were paid leave or not. But more disturbing to many bystanders was the rate at which board members attempted to downplay the accusations.
Originally, the teacher was facing 10 days of suspension. But some board members argued that “hearsay” from a few students at the school was not enough to condemn the teacher. The board did, in fact, have evidence of the accused conversations in form of text messages. However, some felt that the information was not enough to prove him guilty of sexual harassment. Others wonder if their failure to enact stricter consequences may have been based on personal bias favoring the teacher.
In a separate hearing, Holmes is facing these sexual harassment allegations in a grand jury, where additional information may later be revealed regarding the claims. If the grand jury convicts Holmes on these charges, it would only further separate those opposed to the board’s lack of empathy for students who are speaking out against the teacher. Some accused board members of hypocrisy, as their utmost job is to serve and protect the students of the district.
Given the sheer fact that teachers are found to be acting out on lude behavior and sexual harassment more than ever before, it does not bode well for the public to watch how the school board handled repercussions for the school teacher following the multiple cases against him. Additionally, it is likely the teacher now could leave the district and seek employment elsewhere while the district argues over how to handle his accused actions. If anything, this situation depicts just how disorderly public education is when it comes to handling these types of cases against students.