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GUEST COMMENTARY: Missouri government's response to sexual assault cases not sufficient

Monday, October 3, 2011 | 11:36 a.m. CDT; updated 7:21 p.m. CDT, Monday, October 3, 2011

To those of us monitoring  the national “child molester” community and its cohort, the attitude and actions of the courts and legislature often seem to travel only two paths — either down the white rabbit’s hole or through the looking glass.

Three recent examples should give Missouri communities cause to wonder and worry.

Recently, the media have reported that the Missouri Attorney General’s office reached a plea deal with Ken Storla, who admitted to sexually assaulting his two granddaughters. He had sexual intercourse with one when she was 12 years old. 

All charges related to the sexual assaults were dropped, and Storla was convicted only of witness tampering.  

According to one report, the deal requires him to complete a sex offender treatment program. But he will not be required to register as a sex offender.

The deal was justified with the usual “to spare the victims the stress and trauma of a trial.” 

The Missouri attorney general is lying low, addressing the media through his press secretary.

Summary: Storla is not a convicted sex offender; he is a confessed sex offender. He does not have to register as a sex offender, but he must submit to a course of sex offender treatment.

This convolution is rendered all the more pathetic by the fact that the American Psychiatric Association has repeatedly warned that there is no effective clinical remedy or psychological intervention for the personality disorders that are present in the vast majority of sex offenders.

Lest it be said that this is an unusual or isolated outcome in Missouri courts, take heed the case of one Michael Anthony Garber, an assistant coach at Morgan County R-II High School.

In 2009, Garber confessed to performing oral sex on two underage female students.

He was allowed to enter an Alford Plea. This is a plea similar to nolo contendere, in which the accused is allowed to acknowledge that the evidence of his or her crime is sufficient to convict, but no specific guilty plea is required to be entered.

In the case of child molesters, it is a means of ducking registration as a sex offender.

Summary: Garber did not attend the hearing where his teaching credentials were revoked. But the transcript gives a glimpse of how easily the process called “passing the trash” – allowing teacher molesters to simply move to another school district — has been accomplished in the past.

Hearing officer: “Just to make it clear for the record, this certificate is eligible currently for renewal based upon recommendation of the school district?”

The witness: “Yes…”

Now comes the Amy Hestir Act, an attempt to establish uniformity of student protection policy statewide in Missouri — to put a halt to the previously referenced “pass the trash” policy followed by many school districts.

The language of this bill as it moved through the Senate and the House was public information. But it was not until after the bill’s passage that the Missouri State Teachers Union threatened legal action.

It appears the Legislature will now put the individual school districts in control of the policy. We're right back where we started.

Summary: There is not one reason for a teacher to use social networking to communicate with students. It's called social networking.

Teachers have only a custodial relationship under law and policy with students. Any one-on-one interaction between a student and teacher should always be observable by others and subject to supervision.

Dan William Peek lives in Columbia and is a member of Grandparents and Others on Watch, Inc., www.grow-america.org.


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