Sunday, June 29, 2008

Others will be protected thanks to Marshall case

This from the Paducha Sun:

The outrage expressed by the parents of Michael Colvett’s teenage victim is understandable to everyone who has ever been the parent of a teenage girl.

The former Marshall County High School band teacher, who abused his position to have a sexual relationship with an underage student, will not have to serve jail time, provided he meets the terms of his probation. The teenage girl, however, will have to live with the memory, as so many victims of sexual abuse do, for the rest of her life.

Her father, referring to the suggestion that Colvett’s actions stemmed from the difficulty he had dealing with the death of his infant son, said, “As we prayed for your child, you were making your move on my daughter. She was 14. Losing your child gave you no right to take mine.” Strong words. Words filled with anger and hurt at the man who betrayed the trust of parents and students and whose actions can never be undone. The punishment may not have been satisfying, but no punishment administered by the justice system ever could be. Not until they find a way to turn back the clock and change what happened.

The court of public opinion will have to determine whether the punishment was fair: five years probation, continued counseling, evaluation by a specialist in sex offenders, 200 hours of community service, no unsupervised contact with anyone under 18, surrender of his teaching license and registering as a sex offender for the next 20 years. He must also find employment, report regularly to a probation officer, pay $25 a month for his supervision, pay court costs, submit to random drug and alcohol tests. He also has to move to a new home because he lives across the street from an educational institution. Violation of any part of the conditions can result in jail time.

And, as his attorney pointed out, he has lost his reputation, for which he will suffer the rest of his life.

The victim’s parents can take some consolation in the fact that the case will help prevent other children from becoming victims of sexual abuse by those in positions of authority. The aggressiveness of prosecutors in pursuing Colvett shined a light on Kentucky’s lax law regarding such abuse.

The age of consent in Kentucky is only 16. But thanks to a new statute passed by the General Assembly, it is no longer lawful for a teacher, member of the clergy or other person in a position of authority to have sex with anyone under age 18 in his or her care. It was long overdue, but it took the Colvett case to spur lawmakers to act.

Even without the stricter age limitation, 95 teachers in Kentucky lost their certification for sexual misconduct in the five years from 2001-2005, with 80 percent of the cases involving students. Now the law will protect most students hrough high school.

The anger of the victim’s parents is not in vain; other fathers and mothers throughout the Commonwealth owe their own children’s safety to those who would not let this case be swept under the rug.

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