Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Victimization of Nate Fisher

The Nate Fisher case is obviously emblematic of a much broader problem in our country. It was almost as if Jeffrrey Zaslow could forsee Mr. Fisher's future when he wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago, “Avoiding Kids: How Men Cope
with Being Cast as Predators”. He writes how our kids are being taught to fear men and men are opting out of engaging with kids for fear of being cast as predators.

Because he is a male teacher, because he suggested “questionable material” and because he asked a female student “how she felt about it”, the student's parents essentially were given carte blanche to make an accusation against Nate Fisher. And these accusations were immediately deemed justifiable. It didn’t matter that his accusers had never met this teacher and that their child had only been in his class for two days. It also didn’t seem to matter to any official that this teacher's very own students who had spent an entire year in his classroom immediately and boldly came to his defense.

Is there such blind enforcement of Reporting Laws that no matter what claim is presented by a parent or a student, school officials are required to report immediately, with no questions asked? The potential destruction of somebody's life is at stake here. Laws are only as effective their enforcement. And perhaps therein lies some of the problem. In our vigorous quest to mete out sexual predators, we are harming a few innocent people along the way. Those few individuals are still people who have lives to live, reputations to uphold and passions to pursue. Are there going to be fewer men who choose teaching as a career? Fewer male coaches? Fewer male mentors and camp counselors and doctors and club leaders and religious leaders? A frightening prospect but not an unlikely one. If laws are written to protect citizens, Nate Fisher was deserving of protection as well and the system failed him.

Nate Fisher has become another story in Mr. Zaslow’s report. Never mind that his promising career may be finished. Perhaps even more depressing is that he will forever feel personally scrutinized. I can’t help but wonder if the parents of all those student supporters, who never once during the previous year ever questioned Mr. Fisher’s intentions, suddenly started second guessing themselves and their children. Nate Fisher will always have a cloud of doubt over him.

And what about those students who came to his defense? Were their words, testimonies and observations worth nothing? What happened to their voices? One of those teaching moments - again. How disempowered they must feel or is there maybe an uneasiness among them now that perhaps they misjudged this guy, since after all, he did resign and the administration willingly accepted it. It was like, “poof” he never existed.

Think about this, from the same Wall Street Journal article:

"Good parenting and good education demand that we let children take risks," says Mr. Frederick, a career coach. "We install playground equipment, putting them at risk of falls and broken bones. Why? We want them to challenge themselves and develop muscles and confidence."

"Likewise, while we don't want sexual predators to harm our kids, we do want our kids to develop healthy relationships with adults, both men and women. Instilling a fear of men is a profound disservice to everyone."

Thanks to Karoli for getting me thinking some more about this. Her posting should be read by everyone.

1 comment:

Karoli said...

Hi there,

Wow, a deadline has kept my head under water for over a week and I just now found your post. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

You hit right on the heart of what I see as the problem -- no one gave these parents any kind of reality check whatsoever, and the result is unjust and tragic not only for Nate Fisher but even more so for their daughter.

Thanks for putting it together so clearly!