On Saturday (2/19/11), the Los Angeles Times published an article, "Ex-high school principal gets 8 years for molesting four girls." The case involved Jonas Vital Silverio, who had pleaded no contest to 10 counts of lewd acts on a child 14 or 15 years old.
At first blush, the story seems to be just another stomach-turning account of child abuse in our nation's public schools. But buried in the middle of the article was a troubling detail:
[Los Angeles County] Prosecutor Stephanie Chavez said Silverio had a history of sexual misconduct.
In 1995, Silverio was placed on probation for a misdemeanor conviction of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.
In other words, Silverio was serving as the boss at Firebaugh High School in Lynwood, California, even though he had a criminal record for having sex with an underage girl.
One cannot help but wonder: How on earth does a person with such a conviction on his record rise to such a lofty position in a school?
Kudos to the Times for at least including this important fact in its article. (Other local outlets didn't note it at all.) But, again, this shocking detail only merited a passing mention in the middle of the Times' story.
The lack of investigative reporting of this troubling school case only reinforces the clear and pervasive double standard in the media when reporting cases or allegations of child abuse. While the media has aggressively investigated and trumpeted decades-old cases involving Catholic priests from just about anywhere in the world, it has not been nearly as eager to report the massive abuse and cover-ups happening today in our nation's public schools.
Surely if the Silverio case involved the Catholic Church, loads of media outlets would have reported the story, and it probably would have garnered huge national attention. It is not too hard to imagine the headlines:
"Catholic Church allowed criminal child sex offender to rape again"
"Convicted Child Molester Found Haven in Catholic Church"
Just over a week ago, the New York Times forcefully investigated a case involving a Catholic priest across the country in California who admitted to an unlawful relationship with a 16-year-old girl 45 years ago. It even posted a trove of documents related to the case. Hundreds of media outlets picked up on the story, and the narrative was widely reported.
Yet where is the New York Times on this current school story? And will the Los Angeles Times follow up and investigate how someone with a "misdemeanor conviction of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor" rose to the rank of high school principal? Will anyone investigate this?
At the hearing for Silverio's sentencing, traumatized victims and families spoke emotionally of the deep harm that the ex-principal wrecked upon them.
"This man has stained my childhood forever," one victim said. "Because of him, I do not trust anybody."
"I went to him for help in his office once," the young woman added. "I ended up on the floor with him lying on top trying to kiss me."
Don't our children deserve better than this media double standard?
Lives are at stake.
(Oh. By the way, there is another small detail to the story: Silverio was not even a U.S. citizen. He'll probably be deported to the Philippines after serving his prison time.)
-- Dave Pierre is the author of the book, Double Standard: Abuse Scandals and the Attack on the Catholic Church. Dave is also the creator of TheMediaReport.com and is a contributing writer to NewsBusters.org.