It's time to face the facts about sex predators in schools

Good friends and family members would probably tell you that underneath my cynicism I'm sort of a fun-loving guy.

I do really enjoy good food, good wine, dinners with friends, foreign movies, world music, jazz, good books and the occasional date. I also like swimming, golf, yoga, getting a good massage and sleeping late on cold mornings under a couple of quilts.

There may not be anything we can talk about in a family newspaper more pleasant than lying abed on a darkening, gonna-be-dreary Seattle winter's day and just muttering, "The hell with it, at least for another 20 minutes or so."

But there are enough columns cluttering up area newspapers singing the bloated praises of everything from overpriced provincial theater to yet another new coffee spot.

Except for the P-I's Bobby J and, every other time, the Times' Nicole Brodeur, I often wonder if any columnist but yours truly is actually paying attention to the messes our political leaders and fellow citizens keep making on a regular basis.

It's not that I enjoy talking about greed, stupidity and rapacity as much as I just can't avert my eyes from it.

For example, in mid-December a Pierce County Superior Court Judge sentenced Doug Tobin to 14 years in the state penitentiary. Tobin's crime? He was a geoduck poacher.

The same week Joseph Lehman Jr., son of a state bigwig, was sentenced at the King County Regional Justice Center to about one-third the time Tobin received for stealing clams.

Lehman Jr.'s crime?

He pleaded guilty to raping his girlfriend's TWO-MONTH-OLD baby.

That's right. Lehman Jr. admitted ... I can't even call it having sex ... admitted assaulting sexually a 60-day-old human being.

Prosecutors were asking for six months jail time, some of it suspended, claiming Lehman Jr. was amenable to treatment.

Fortunately, a judge gave Lehman a few years to think about his actions. But not 14 years.

Can anyone believe stealing a million dollars in clams over a period of years is more of an offense against God and man than raping an infant who is under your care?

We've talked here about my belief in the death penalty for certain cases. Most people mean murder when they say the state should reserve the right to kill certain folk, such as Gary Ridgway, self-admitted multiple murderer of young women up and down King County.

Myself, I would have no trouble sentencing Lehman Jr. to death for his admitted offense.

Amenable to what treatment?

Is there nothing a human being can do in our modern world that casts him outside humanity's borders?

Lehman Jr. will be out and about in less time than the clam poacher. The punishment for raping a creature that cannot even talk is one-third that of making some illegal money on long-necked clams in our lovely region of the world.

That is crazy wrong.

In the same vein, The Seattle Times filled a few newspapers in December with its well-researched and chilling series about coaches who prey sexually on the teenaged athletes under their alleged guidance around our state.

More than 150 such perverts were at work in our state's schools when they were caught doing unmentionables with young women over the past decade.

But even when these clowns were released by the schools that employed them, the state's overseer, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, often didn't do much, if anything, to keep these self-admitted child molesters from getting jobs in other schools in the state.

According to the Times' series, almost a hundred of the 150-plus teachers and coaches caught with their hands in a human cookie jar found new jobs in their chosen field.

Usually much quicker than they were fired or released by their previous employers.

The victims were often more shunned than the offenders.

The OSPI has a budget of almost $11 million spread around to 360 employees. But they don't protect our kids.

Your kids.

We live in society where people seem inordinately worried about language, sex in films and having to pay for their employees' health insurance. But we don't seem too concerned about the sexual safety of our own children.

Any teacher caught having an affair with an underage student should be sentenced to as much time in the penitentiary as the aforementioned Doug Tobin, clam poacher.

Teachers who poach our underage daughters are criminals, not misunderstood pillars of the community.

As a society we seem reticent to punish sexual predators, unless they happen to be looking at pornography on their computers in the privacy of their own homes. This is astounding to me.

Thinking about it sours the taste of the good food I like to eat, curdles the good wine I like to drink and interferes with my concentration when I'm trying to read the subtitles on one of those films from Over There I like to watch.

I don't understand why it doesn't seem to bother Seattle-area parents enough to force some strong and deliberate action to be taken by the state against all these aforementioned pedophiles.

Our societal unwillingness to confront this sick, destructive stuff seems weak and crazy to me.

And much more important than an endless rehash of how the state paid $3.2 million for every new Boeing job it will get in Everett, or the veritable sea of newsprint expended on yet another Seahawks playoff failure.

I can't get too worked up about millionaires in the Boeing corporate offices, or on the field at Paul Allen's stadium that we paid for.

Oddly enough, I worry more about our kids.

What about you?

Freelance writer Dennis Wilken resides in Uptown.

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