Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Responsibility part 2

My faith in my fellow Utahns is restored. Just when I thought I'd read the last of the stories on female teachers taking advantage of young boys I found this story in my local Salt Lake City newspaper for October 28. A 31-year-old woman, Andrea L. Billingsley,* a teacher aide at a middle school, was arrested for having sex with two 15-year-old boys, "forcible sexual abuse, forcible sodomy and dealing pornography to minors." The boys were part of an in-school suspension behavior problems unit. The boys told some of their buddies and now the teacher is in deep trouble. Way to go, Andrea! You're more proof that we are the home of gals who are hard up for hardons. Guys, move here. The older women are just lusting to get your young stuff.

After I wrote the other day about taking responsibility for one's actions, even if they result in the death of others, I was reminded by my wife of something that happened some years ago. I had nearly forgotten these events from more than a decade ago:

Susie was a secretary in one of our schools. She was well-liked by her female coworkers and loved by the men. She was in her late twenties, a mom with a couple of kids. She was cute, petite and vivacious. She was perfect for meeting the public and she was smart. She had her difficult job down pat. Being smart at her job didn't protect her from Principal R., a known womanizer who had been passed from school to school because of his problems keeping his hands off female employees. By transferring him to Susie's school the school district was essentially putting Susie in harm's way.

It wasn't long before there was a buzz about Principal R. and Susie. With him it usually didn't take much time once he had identified his target and zeroed in. He was a short man, balding, but handsome, athletic, trim and oozing rakish charm.

No one knows exactly what happened but one day Susie announced she was quitting. I'd heard about her and Principal R. and figured it might have something to do with that. When she told me she was leaving she said, "I want to spend more time with my husband and kids." Aha. The old "want to spend more time with my family" excuse! Right, you're having an affair, and your husband has found out. It's causing problems and you want out and away from your lover so you can save your marriage. Gotcha.

Susie went to work at the same Post Office where her husband worked, so they were able to wangle concurrent schedules and commuted together. She had been gone for several months when we got some terrible news. There had been a freeway crash and Susie was dead. She had been thrown under the dashboard and killed.

Here's the responsibility part: Since we assume Principal R. was the reason that Susie left her job at the school district, is she dead because of it? Does Principal R. bear any responsibility once she leaves his employ and he's no longer in her life? There just aren't enough facts for me to tell. At some point Principal R. was transferred to the district office so they could keep an eye on him. A couple of years later he was allowed to "retire," and the Superintendent, who had allowed Principal R.'s blatant sexual harassment followed him into "retirement" sometime later. The Board of Education might not have factored Susie's death into the equation, but at least they figured they'd had enough of Principal R. and the culture of moving sexual harassers from place to place rather than removing them.

I wonder now if he thinks about Susie at all whether he feels any responsibility, moral or otherwise, for Susie's death. At least he bears some moral responsibility for using the schools as his personal hunting preserve, bagging trophies in just about every place he worked.

In another story, Anne, also a secretary, also died in a hideous fashion. She was friends with another secretary, C.G. Anne and C.G. liked to drink. Anne went to C.G.'s house, which was west of the city, by the Great Salt Lake. At that time there had been flooding and the lake had overflowed, including areas between state highways near the lake. Anne and C.G. drank wine, and then Anne left after dark to drive home. She dropped off the face of the earth. C.G. was the last person to see her. A week later Anne's car, with her body inside, was found in a barrow pit filled with water. In her inebriated state, at night, she drove right into the water and drowned.

If C.G. let her drive in an intoxicated state then C.G. bears some responsibility. I know that C.G. felt responsible because she said so to her friends and coworkers. Legally she wasn't held to account for the death, but morally she was at least partially accountable. Full responsibility is mitigated for me because Anne was also a part-time bartender, who should have known if she was drunk or at least impaired, and waited to sober up before heading home. Anne was not supposed to serve drinks to intoxicated customers. If she did and that customer died or killed someone else because of impairment by alcohol then under the law Anne would have been held accountable. C.G. doesn't get off scot free but she shouldn't take all of it on herself, either.

In these situations where the unexpected occurs because of something we did we seldom think of the ramifications or extrapolate on the larger picture of what our actions bring about. As long as the police don't come and get us or we don't get sued then we figure we're in the clear. Legally, perhaps. Morally, probably not.

*Scroll down and look at the picture of the other female sex offender, Arielle Beck. Doesn't she look like Billingsley? Even the same initials. The major difference is that Beck had sex with an underage girl.

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