Principal made bad choice on reporting child neglect, abuse
After Lynett Gorman checked to be certain her son had not been involved in an April 2012 party at which alcohol was served to minors and sexual activity occurred, she assumed she had done her duty as a parent. Unfortunately, she had not fulfilled her responsibility to other children.
Gorman, the principal of Pugliese West Elementary School in Jefferson County, was indicted last year for failing to report child abuse or neglect. As an educator, she is required by Ohio law to report such situations.
The misdemeanor charge stemmed from Gorman’s actions in April 2012. After hearing about the party, she asked her son if he had been there and, upon being told he had not, made some phone calls to double check.
Other youths were at the party, however. And a 14-year-old girl has alleged she was sexually assaulted at the party.
Last week, a trial for Gorman was averted when she and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office reached an agreement. It calls for the misdemeanor charge to be dropped if Gorman meets conditions of the agreement. They include that she is to perform 40 hours of community service and speak to other educators about recognizing and reporting child neglect and abuse.
Part of the agreement states that Gorman “believes that she committed no crime. She also believes that if she had the ability to go back to April 2012, she would have acted differently. School teachers and administrators should always err on the side of caution when the interests of the children are at stake.”
To judge by her choice of a profession and her good record in it, Gorman cares about children. But in April 2012, she made a mistake in not notifying the authorities about the party.
What happened is a reminder to adults – all of us, not just those required by law to report cases of child neglect or abuse – of the responsibility we have to children.
Bad things happen often when juveniles consume alcohol. Too often, adults aid and abet such behavior by allowing or even staging parties at which minors drink. That is a crime in both states – but more important, it can place youngsters in terrible danger.
Even when law enforcement agencies are notified after such parties have occurred, they can take steps to bring guilty adults to justice and deter others from providing alcohol to minors.
No doubt Gorman is genuinely regretful about her lapse in April 2012. In speaking to other educators, she may caution them not to make the same error. Hers will be a persuasive presentation, for obvious reasons.
But it should not require a situation such as Gorman’s to convince other adults to do something about child neglect or abuse of any kind.
Most adults say we do all in our power to protect children from harm. But ask yourself this: