Foley Case: Why Parents Keep Silent--But That's No Excuse for Hastert
"you'll be way hot then"
That's ex-congressman Mark Foley in one of the more PG-rated of his instant messages to a congressional page (WARNING: Linked material includes highly explicit sexual material).
How is it possible that this didn't all come out sooner? If not only a community of pages but also some parents knew about these emails and messages and said nothing, is it then right to hold House leaders such as Speaker Denny Hastert responsible for not moving with greater haste to get Foley out of Congress and into the justice system?
"at your age seems like it would be daily"
When I was in high school, students and parents alike kept quiet about relationships between teachers and students. There was no conspiracy; as far as I know, the decision to avoid making a big to-do was never even discussed among parents, nor even among the students who knew. Rather, several people each made independent decisions to keep quiet. Why? Clearly, the adults were weighing the difficulty of proving inappropriate behavior against the harm to the students involved in those relationships and against the powerful impact that any public allegations would have on the school and the teachers involved. With hindsight, and with the much more highly protective standards that have evolved in recent years, it's easy to say that those who stayed silent were wrong. But my sense is that most people would stay silent on such matters even now, just as the parents of the pages did.
"where do you unload it"
Indeed, the current climate in schools around the country, in which sexual activity for many kids starts at ever-earlier ages even as zero tolerance policies criminalize all manner of student misbehavior, tends to make parents and other adults ever more reluctant to report even egregious acts. Given the firestorm that was almost certain to result, what parents would have the stomach to turn in a congressman who was taking advantage of pages?
"love to slip them off of you"
But a parent's natural inclination to protect a child's privacy and avoid a public spectacle has nothing whatever to do with the obligation an elected official has to bring every possible force of law down upon a colleague who so baldly abuses his position. The revelations that top Republican leaders were informed of the inappropriate contacts between Foley and pages as far back as last year mean that grown ups in a position of authority chose not to take decisive action against the wayward congressman. Speaker Hastert's defense of his aides who supposedly didn't bring the information to their boss is nearly as appalling as it would be if Hastert did know and didn't do anything.
"well don't ruin my mental picture"
Why should Hastert and the other congressmen who knew--or could easily have known--be held to a different and higher standard than the parents of the pages themselves? Because the congressmen were in a different and higher position. Foley was their colleague, and, in the leaders' case, their subordinate. And congressmen are charged with the policing of one another's ethical behavior. The parents' first duty is to their own children; we can argue about whether those parents ought to have come forward, at the least for the protection of other kids whom Foley might have been preying upon, but at least in the parents' case, there are some conflicting forces at work. Not so in the case of the congressmen who knew.
Their silence is explicable only by the crassest of political calculations. They should be ashamed of themselves.
At the end of Foley's IM session with one young man, the child closes with this: "well i better go finish my hw...i just found out from a friend that i have to finish reading and notating a book for AP english"
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