Friday, April 4, 2014
Grant Gallicho dot Commonweal April 4, 2014 Today the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced that it has suspended a high-school teacher accused of having a sexual relationship with one of her students this year. Which is what a diocese does when it learns that one of its employees may have abused a minor. But what does a diocese do when it also learns that the staff member who first received the allegation waited weeks to report it? Turns out this one suspends that employee too--and names her (and the accused) in a public statement and a letter to parents. A number of weeks ago, Annette Goodman, the school’s librarian, learned about the allegation. Maryland law and the policies of the Archdiocese and Archbishop Curley High School require that allegations of child abuse be reported to civil authorities and to the head of the school as soon as possible. Ms. Goodman reported the information to the school’s administration on April 1. There's transparency and then there's transparency. Maryland law requires mandatory reporters--which includes educators--to orally notify civil authorities of suspected abuse "immediately" (they have forty-eight hours to file a written report). You may recall a somewhat similar case involving a diocesesan staff member who came to suspect one of his priests was in possession of child pornography. He was eventually found guilty of failing to report suspected child abuse. But he wasn't suspended, and he remains in the position he held when he broke the law: bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph. We'll know whether this amounts to a real shift in church policy when the people who get suspended for failing to report include the men responsible for creating this scandal.