Good People Doing Bad Things

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Some community members will find themselves inherently skeptical of everything written here simply because they know personally some of the District administrators or Board members whose conduct is being condemned here. They may know them to be good people. They may even know them to be good leaders.

In response, we offer simply that no liars lie all the time. No tyrants terrorize all the time. Most people are decent most of the time. If the public has extensive experience with some of these senior administrators acting decently, that is exactly what one would expect. It doesn’t undermine the veracity of these reports about their behaving abominably. Our concern is not over whether our senior administrators can EVER function appropriately; our concern is for the extreme, repeat failures demonstrated in their performance of their official duties. Whatever virtues the public has observed in them, employees in the Ozark School District have still suffered tremendously at their hands. These administrators have still shown substantial contempt for their duty, limits of their authority, etc.

ozark-mo-hs-school-district

Even if the gross misconduct recounted here was much less frequent, the abusive nature of it would still constitute cause for grave concern. A murderer is still a murderer even if he kills “only” one victim. A rapist is still a rapist even if he has a few legitimate romantic relationships in his life. An abuser who is decent whenever he gets his way and abusive only when he does not is still an abuser. This is not meant to suggest that these identities - murderer, rapist, abuser - override their other identities or overshadow their other virtues. It is not meant to suggest that people should be judged principally by their failures. It is simply to acknowledge that no amount of other virtues constitute justification for denying, excusing, or ignoring horrific misconduct.

To all those teachers who have had great experiences in Ozark, we offer that so did we.  We felt respected and appreciated in the Ozark School District.  We thought ourselves fortunate to be part of a high-performing team that so valued us.  And then we each spoke out about a problem in the District.  That is when we saw the other side of our District administrators.  For those who have only seen the respectable Dr. Jekyll, remember that even he harbored within himself a sinister Mr. Hyde, known only to his victims.  We can fully agree with a public that reports that these senior administrators are fine, committed, respectable people . . . until they aren’t. They are wonderful people who just happen to violate others as well.  Knowing Dr. Jekyll doesn’t mean you also know Mr. Hyde

Jekyll, Hyde

It is surely the case that most people behave most of the time in a way that makes sense to them, from the perspective they occupy at that time. This isn’t to say that no one ever errs knowingly. It is just to say that even if they have a justification in their own minds that is at odds with the tyrannical indifference we are attributing to them, we are not condemning anyone for the content of their thoughts or even the sufficiency of their attitudes. We are judging the propriety of their ACTIONS in an official capacity. And District administrators have behaved abominably to good teachers and staff members on countless occasions. School Board members have likewise shown gross indifference to their responsibility, justice, and general decency.

Perhaps the best way to understand our senior administrator misconduct is as a classic case of “noble cause corruption.” This arises when people in authority pursue a vision to which they attach high moral purpose. This engenders a crusader mentality where anything that imperils the achievement of their vision is evil and must be defeated, even through vicious means. The ends justify the means. Nothing must impede the realization of the noble cause. They arrogantly assert the moral superiority of their judgment over everyone else’s and therefore need not consider anyone’s protests. Thus their self-supposed moral clarity blinds them to the reality of their own evil.

When Barbara Bowman accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault in 2006, no one paid any notice. When Andrea Constand accused him in 2014, the media coverage caught our attention. But we (the public) refused to believe the charge. We knew Bill Cosby. We grew up under his tutelage. We admired his gentleness and sensitivity. We just knew he couldn’t have done such a thing. Not Bill Cosby. When one or two more accusers emerged as the media maintained a spotlight on them, we dismissed them, too. They were surely just attention seekers hoping to profit from a civil lawsuit against him or advance some other agenda. But as more and more women emerged to publicly report similar experiences with him, we gradually admitted that we needed to listen. More than 50 women ultimately publicly accused him of sexual assault.

Bill Cosby and Andrea Constand

Similarly, when just one disgruntled teacher accused Chris Bauman of abuse, retaliation, and gross dishonesty, the public may rightly have been skeptical.  No, not Chris Bauman.  He wouldn’t do that.  We know him too well.  He is a good man.  And he runs a tremendously successful school district.  Such problems couldn’t be taking place here.  When two more disgruntled teachers publicized their stories, the public necessarily began to pay a little more attention.  But it was still tough to reconcile the reports being aired with what the public knows about the good administrators being accused (not just Chris Bauman).  These were all decent, caring people.  Even many of our teachers remain skeptical as they have had only positive experiences with these administrators.  Just like each of us did . . . until we spoke up about something wrong in the district.  Just like each of Bill Cosby’s victims did . . . until he got a little too excited about them.  The number of victim reports we have received about senior district administrators now exceed the number of victims who accused Bill Cosby. 

Bill Cosby and Barbara Bowman

While Cosby’s victims were initially reluctant to report, their main fears were reliving trauma, enduring public exposure, being disbelieved, and perhaps even being slandered.  They didn’t generally have to worry about being harrassed, intimidated, and ultimately fired (and thereafter unemployable in the profession they devoted their lives to).  So it should be no surprise that many victims of Ozark administrators have reported that they will NEVER feel safe sharing (at least not until they and their children are all disassociated from the Ozark School District).  It is time we all examine the evidence, as we were ultimately compelled to do with Bill Cosby.

It should be noted that while the public had the luxury of maintaining our confidence in Bill Cosby even as evidence mounted against him, those charged with maintaining our criminal justice system had no such luxury.  They were obligated to take each report seriously and examine the evidence for it.  Our School Board likewise has a responsibility, regardless of their previous faith in our district administrators, to take our reports seriously and to examine the evidence for them.  They have previously pointed out that they shouldn’t and can’t investigate every allegation against their administrators.  Fair enough.  But we are well past the point of these being non-credible allegations levied by merely disgruntled, underperforming teachers.  The evidence is now mountainous, and the school board still refuses to consider any of it.

Given the School Board’s unwillingness to consider our stories, we now necessarily appeal directly to the voting public, inviting the public to select more accountable board members in the future than those we are presently saddled with.

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