Repressed Speech

     “Could have 100 children abused.”
     “Letting sleeping dogs lie may be more helpful.”
     “Statute of limitations anyway. … No proof.”
     Those notes from the personnel file of Bill Bricker, who taught elementary P.E. for 36 years in the wealthy North Shore suburb of Winnetka, and led a Boy Scout troop there, were uncovered by the Chicago Tribune.
     I can guarantee you that Bricker molested 100 kids.
     I can think offhand of four guys he molested, and I only spent a year at Hubbard Woods Elementary – 5th grade, class of 1962. Two of his victims told me about it back then.
     In those days, you didn’t talk about that.
     But let’s not get all huffy about Winnetka School District 36.
     The way it treated Bricker was no different than the way the other 14,000 public school districts in the United States have treated child molesters for a century.
     They cover it up.
     They blame the victims.
     They pass the molester on to another district. (Though Bricker stayed in Winnetka schools until he retired.)
     It’s changing, a bit, now. But not much.
     School boards and superintendents continue to pass child molesters on to other districts, with a clean record, to try to protect their own sorry asses.
     “Ssshh! Get him out of here. Write him a nice letter,” the attorneys tell the school board. And the superintendent helps.
     I’m not knocking attorneys. I’m involved in this too. Not because I ever molested a kid, but because I had good reason to believe that a fellow teacher was molesting them. As a public schoolteacher, I was required to report this. And I did – sort of.
     First I sought advice from two attorneys, one of whom told me: “To ruin a man’s life could be actionable. To fail to ruin his life would be less actionable.”
     So I told my principal, who was a smart man, in words as clear as I could make them, to get this guy away from kids. I did not say, “Teacher A is molesting children.” Because I had no proof. But I made it damn clear to my boss that I thought Teacher A was molesting kids. And he understood what I was saying.
     Teacher A moved along to another job. He was a good teacher. He just had this thing for kids.
     For the record, I started writing this column before I learned that Bill Bricker is dead. He died a week ago.
     “I’m glad he’s dead,” one of his victims told the Chicago Tribune.
     That victim was in 4th grade at Hubbard Woods when I was in 5th grade. He’s not one of the four guys I know about.
     All the kids knew Bricker was a molester. He called the square dances, and led the Scout troop, and threw out the basketballs for P.E., and molested kids.
     But you didn’t talk about that then.
     Why didn’t we talk about it? I don’t know – you just didn’t.
     The late great Lenny Bruce said that talking about sex or racism never hurt anyone. It’s the repression that makes it hard to talk about it that’s dangerous.
     So let’s talk about everything. Sex, racism, religion, the true meaning of patriotism, the tastelessness of Charlie Hebdo. Let’s even talk about Muhammad.
     Are we allowed to do that?

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