StudentsFirst CEO Sends Mixed Message on Sexual Misconduct by School Personnel
In her public career as an education policy change agent, Michelle Rhee has spoken at times about the issue of firing school staff who are sex offenders. As DC schools chancellor, she once said, "I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children."
The topic came up again when Rhee appeared on Fox and Friends last week to promote her new book. Host Steve Doocey asked Rhee why it was so difficult to fire a Los Angeles teacher accused of sexual misconduct. Did Doocey know Rhee's husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, had faced his own past allegations of being a sexual predator when he was CEO of his charter school St. HOPE Academy and earlier when he lived in Phoenix?
Johnson has managed to keep the press at bay despite the scandals so maybe not. The fact that Rhee and Johnson have appeared together onstage calling for more accountability and transparency from school personnel while they dismiss two separate accounts of alleged sexual misconduct by Johnson makes Doocey's question especially relevant.
Does a double standard exist with the superstar reformer when it comes to protecting our nation's students? Rhee rose to fame firing teachers, principals and school officials as part of her agenda to put kids first yet she has a huge blind spot when it comes to her own husband.
Here's the exchange between Doocey and Rhee:
Doocey: You were telling me in the break--just about--for instance in Los Angeles--this seems like a no-brainer--some sexual predator was a teacher and yet what happened?
Rhee: So they found all this evidence this guy was a sexual predator--they couldn't fire the teacher because of, you know, the various tenure laws, et cetera, so a legislation introduced a bill that would have made it easier for school districts to fire sexual predators and the bill not only didn't pass but didn't make it out of committee. And this is part of the problem--people out there are not holding our public officials accountable for making sure that laws and policies we have in place are looking out for the best interests of the kids.
In 2007 when Gerald Walpin the Inspector General of AmeriCorp's umbrella organization, Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) investigated Johnson for misuse of government funds he also discovered possible sexual misconduct and included it in his report.
When his then girlfriend Rhee heard of the charges she immediately flew to Sacramento making it her "number one priority" stating "she would take care of the situation." Rhee had several conversations with the inspector general, running interference and calling Johnson "a good guy." A follow-up 2010 congressional report by the House Oversight Committee stated "Walpin's investigation found significant wrongdoing and allegations of sexual misconduct by President Obama's good friend and Sacramento Mayor, Kevin Johnson."
If Doocey didn't know about the situation at St. HOPE how about detailed allegations of sexual abuse against Johnson 11 years earlier in Phoenix, Arizona? A 16-year old whom Johnson befriended as part of his philanthropic outreach to troubled teens told her therapist who eventually went to the police, Johnson had engaged in sexually promiscuous activities with her. Johnson agreed to a $230,000 payout, and the case was dropped.
Rhee has a first-rate PR team headed up by Obama's former communications director Anita Dunn, but with the school reformer's blaring double standard about holding public officials accountable in sexual misconduct affairs, even they might not be able to keep the lid on this scandal.
Read more M. Catharine Evans at Potter Williams Report