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Of child molesters and hysteria

By Nicholas Stix
web posted February 7, 2005

Apparently, a new child molester is roaming the Rockaway peninsula in Queens, New York – me! I say that, because on January 11, a girl of about 11 years of age walking on the other side of the street kept nervously looking over her shoulder at me. When I sought to comfort her with a kindly smile, and perhaps a nod, she became even more alarmed. At the PTA meeting that night at my son's school, a parent insisted to me, "If a child feels intimidated, then an incident occurred."

Salem witch trials, here we come!

But it gets worse. I wasn't some stranger cruising the neighborhood (didn't a man once have the right to walk any street in America?); I was walking the same route I walk at the same time, every weekday, to pick up my child from school. And then the girl crossed in front of me, to enter her house. Why, she was no stranger, either! Just a few days earlier, she had stood in front of her house as my son and I walked past, heading home, and flashed a brilliant smile at him. And that wasn't the first time. (He has that effect on females.)

So, what had I done to terrorize this poor child, you ask? When I got home, I told my wife what had happened. She showed me the following letter on school letterhead, which our son had brought home a few days earlier.

January 6, 2005

Dear Parents:

We have received the following notification from our Supervisor of Safety and Security regarding an incident that occurred this morning. Please be vigilant and in clear communication with your children in order to ensure their safety and well-being.

This morning one of our 5th grade female student [child's full name was given!] was escorted by the police from the 101 pct. to school this morning. [Child's first name] gave the following account. "While on my way to school I saw a man following me. I looked back he smiled and nodded his head. I kept walking. when I looked back again he was still following me smiling. I looked back a third time and he was still there. [Child's name, now in the voice of the security supervisor, but without closing the quotation] went into CVS on Beach 20th street and informed the security guard there. the security guard called the pct. the description of the male is brown skin – mixed gray and black hair about 5 9. the officer said he looked in the area but did not see the person. The officer also noted that this area is next to a nursing home facility. Parent of child was called and it is being reported online.


(Name, signed)
Assistant Principal

(I did not publish the name of the assistant principal or of the school, in order to protect my son. Thus do various guilty parties get off scot free.)

To recap, according to the NYPD and the school brass, there was an "incident" (read: crime) on January 6. A man was accused and convicted, in absentia, of first degree walking behind, smiling, and nodding at a ten or eleven-year-old girl. How many years is that good for? And what if he hadn't smiled and nodded at her? Would she have reported that he had an "intimidating hard look," or that he had looked away in a "suspicious" manner? As child abuse "experts" tell us, anything a "suspect" does, is proof of his guilt.

As my wife observed, the man was probably on his way to work. In any event, based on the child's own words, there was no incident, just an hysterical child. Lord knows, children get hysterical at times. But grownups are supposed to be … grown up. It is our job to calm hysteria, not encourage it. Unfortunately, the folks running my son's school were just as hysterical as the child.

The child who reacted to me with paranoia does not even attend my son's school. She gets out a half-hour earlier, presumably from a nearby Catholic school. It seems that some parents from my son's school not only drove their own kids nuts with the hysterical, irresponsible letter, but showed it to their neighbors who send their kids to the Catholic school, some of whom in turn made their kids crazy.

My theory is that the precinct notified the school, so the child wouldn't get in trouble for being late. So far, so good. The school brass then broadcast the commotion out of fear that otherwise a parent would find out about it, and sue them for being guilty of insufficient hysteria. No can do. But since in publicizing the child's name the school violated privacy regulations, the child's family is virtually guaranteed to sue it. As the mother of one of my son's classmates observed, the rest of us will have to pay for that lawsuit.

Hysteria never helps.

I tried to get the local newspaper, The Wave, interested in the story to no avail.

That same night, I brought up the matter at the local PTA meeting, but didn't get very far there, either. The PTA is run by a clique of school employees and perhaps a few parents, all of whom are fanatically supportive of the schools' bosses.

Early in the meeting, the assistant principal who had sent home the letter reported that the school works with children through role-playing, to teach alternate methods of conflict resolution. "The problem is not so much aggression as saying things like, ‘You're not a member of our club.'"

Until the over 90-minute meeting was almost over, only administrators and "cliquies" whom the emcee called on by name for reports on their respective spheres of influence got to speak. Although the emcee was polite and eventually permitted me to speak (due to my furious note-taking, she may have thought I was a reporter from The Wave), a handful of the other 36 audience members clearly felt that I had no such right.

One such was a school employee who was angry at parents in general. She complained about parents who come to parent assemblies without "proper photo ID," "Don't put school staff members in a position" of having to vouch for your identity. (Why shouldn't a staffer be glad to vouch for the identity of a parent from the neighborhood whose children have attended the school for years? Staffers have turned an ID requirement meant to keep weirdoes from wandering school halls, into a pretext for harassing parents. As my mom always says, "A little power is a dangerous thing.") Then the staffer complained about parents who park their cars on one of the streets near the school, and walk their children into the school building. She called on parents to be more like taxi drivers, and stop in the school's vicinity, open the car door, and let their kids hop out. It didn't occur to me at the time, but she was complaining about my fellow pre-K parents (none of whom I saw there), who walk their four-year-olds into the building, to hand them off directly to their teacher – as well they must!

To recap, according to the clique, parents must react hysterically to baseless charges about imaginary incidents involving non-existent child molesters, while cavalierly neglecting their children's most fundamental safety needs.

The lead goon present said his name was Keith, and asked me to "step outside" into the hall. Keith, who claimed all sorts of grand titles, including PTA vice president, and apparently graduated from the Mike Tyson School of Rhetoric, did everything but bite my ear off. He kept putting his hands on me, sticking his face within two inches of mine, and yelling at me to let him talk, any time I disputed his loud, robotically repeated charge that the NYPD has a "mechanism" for reporting "incidents" that I'm not allowed to question, and that I only "feel" that the matter was mishandled. When an hysterical child "feels" something, all law goes out the window, but when I think something, it means nothing.

Keith (who is at least six inches taller than me) was so out of control that I had to grasp his shoulders and tell him, "Now, let's back up. If you don't stop putting your hands on me, I'm going to put my hands on you, and you're not going to like it."

The security guard working the meeting had accompanied us into the hall, but rather than being there to keep things civil, she saw her job as supporting Keith. After offering in vain several times, "How about we just agree to disagree?," I had to walk away from Keith and his bodyguard, back into the auditorium, in order to prevent a real incident from occurring.

There is no "mechanism." Indeed, the NYPD appears to have had nothing to do with the announcement. The security supervisor is an NYPD employee, and while he did notify the assistant principal of the "incident," it was the latter that had screwed up by publicizing the matter, and the child's name.

For me, the lesson of the meeting was, don't go to the PTA without a clique of your own to make the bullies mind their manners. And if some poor son-of-a-gun should suffer a false accusation, how much do you want to bet, that some of those PTA bullies will lead the lynch mob?

How does terrorizing innocent men protect children?

You'd never know it from the foregoing, but my son's school is head and shoulders above the region's other public schools, which are racist and ultraviolent.

Some people specialize in using children to spread hysteria and destroy the lives of grownups. During the 1980s, in high-profile cases around the country, children were coached by grownups (largely prosecutors, their investigators, and allied social workers) into making false accusations of satanic sexual abuse against, in particular, day-care and preschool personnel. Not one iota of physical evidence supported lurid charges of rape, sodomy, etc., against Virginia McMartin, Peggy McMartin Buckey, and Raymond Buckey; Violet, Cheryl, and Gerald Amirault; John Stoll; Margaret Kelly Michaels (and here); or Grant Snowden, yet the public was told by hysterical activists, parents, "experts" and prosecutors, "Listen to the children!" Some parents even wore "We Believe the Children" buttons.

Each of the above-named people spent years in prison without any crime having been committed … save for malicious prosecution.

When you encourage children to be hysterical towards all strange men, you do not "err on the side of caution." Rather, you confuse them into overreacting to non-threats, leaving them lost in the face of real ones. And legal protections of the accused, like the presumption of innocence, will always be the second casualties of such hysteria – after the truth.

And things have gotten worse since the 1980s. Back then, a child still had to accuse an adult of a real crime, before the latter could be persecuted. Now, apparently, all a child has to say is that a man makes her feel "intimidated." But it's all "for the children."

Some locals might seek to rationalize the hysterics, by noting that a man from Brooklyn was found cruising around the Rockaways in a car full of children's toys a few weeks ago. Police stopped the man. When they determined that he didn't know anyone around here, they had him remanded to a psych ward. But that little drama was no excuse for turning children into psychiatric patients at the sight of a smiling man on the street.

During the 1980s' mass hysteria, some observers noted that many parents felt guilty about handing over their children to strangers in day care centers. That guilt commingled with a related development, in which government increasingly aggrandized legal power over children. But children have not been served well by state "parenting." Instead, we have dead children as before, but now with the routine violation of adults' legal protections.

There's a darkly comical side to this story that the New York papers will never touch. The area (including the schools) where the little girl was walking, in Far Rockaway, is one of the most violent in America. She lives miles outside of the district where she attends school. As a mother who didn't come to the PTA meeting noted, the child would have to have received a variance to go to such a distant school, likely via No Child Left Behind. In the area where the girl suffered the non-incident, half the males above the age of eight are violent felons, and yet, the police are ready to arrest a man for walking behind a little girl and smiling at her?!

Indeed, I met my future wife around the corner from where that little girl ran for help. We both lived in "Far Rock" in those days. I used to hear gunfire on the street two or three nights a week; where my wife lived, she heard it every night.

I know someone who as a little girl grew up in a rough place, yet did not require hospitalization every time a strange man smiled at her. Then one day, when she was a teenager, a violent criminal tried to force himself on her younger sister. She punched the man in the face with all her might, and ran with her younger sibling to safety. Because she was not distracted and confused by imaginary demons, she could focus on real ones. That older sister is my hero; she's also my wife.

Nicholas Stix can be reached at add1dda@aol.com.

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