U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks has determined the Title IX civil complaint filed against the Huntsville School District should be sealed pending resolution of a motion to seal the entire case, ostensibly to protect the identity of youths involved in two years of alleged sexual-abuse incidents at the junior high school.
On the surface, Brooks made a reasonable decision, especially considering state and federal laws prevent identifying children involved in such incidents.
However, from a practical standpoint, it's difficult to see how everyone in this community of 2,500 doesn't already know which teenagers were involved as perpetrators and victims in the locker-room hazing called "baptisms" and "bean-dipping."
It raises the question how one might keep such involvement "secret" in the ongoing civil matter (which also is intertwined with an FOIA lawsuit against the district) with the addition of possible criminal prosecution waiting in the wings.
This awkward situation where those testifying at a civil trial might later be addressing possible criminal matters under oath over the same incident puts defendants in a precarious legal position in the nature of their testimony and the identities of those involved.
For instance, who on Huntsville's school board and its administration knew what and when? Should school authorities have reported to the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at the initial stage, especially since they are mandated to report immediately upon learning of suspected child abuse?
Besides the harrowing aspects for all involved, don't many who've followed the published accounts about this scandal in the local Madison County Record already know those involved through word-of-mouth?
To its credit, the Record has never named them. It's admirable that Ellen Kreth, publisher of the Record, has used her newspaper to keep the public informed as facts have emerged in recent months.
In her first-rate reporting efforts, Kreth interviewed Huntsville School officials, as well as the district's Title IX director.
She has since signed an affidavit stating the director revealed the names of three persons involved in the scandal. Good for a journalist trying to fulfill her job responsibly.
Yet I have serious doubts about officially sharing that information from a legal standpoint, particularly now, in light of the judge's seal. Why would the school's own Title IX director provide names involved in this mess to the newspaper?
The Huntsville school district has even provided a copy of the Title IX investigatory report. Yet now they want to call foul and say that no such specific information should be disclosed? These same details they previously freely gave the media?
What a tangled web we weave when ... oh, you know the thing.
Hypocrisy on display
After seeing photographs of all those mega-expensive private jets used by privileged politicians to attend the recent G-20 summit in Rome, I'm withholding an opinion on the validity of climate change.
Obviously, those enjoying these fuel-guzzling machines are too tone-deaf to recognize the hypocrisy involved in their actions, or what they dictate that everyone else should do.
I'll not even go into President Joe Biden's well-publicized 85-vehicle motorcade so he could enjoy a grip-and-grin and photo-op with the Pope. Really Joe? Why not do all this talking over Zoom and save thousands of gallons of the carbon-based fuel they supposedly disdain?
Voters in Virginia and New Jersey certainly sent convincing messages in last week's voting.
It's now painfully clear to everyone in the country that this recent push toward socialism and left-wing ideology isn't what the majority of Americans expected or want from the Biden administration.
"Squad" members such as AOC, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Talib may have wrested control over the House with their radically "progressive" agenda, but I'm betting they will have zero luck convincing Mom and Pop America to follow their ideology of government control that violates the whole notion of freedom and common sense, including in our public schools.
The coming year cannot pass quickly enough for many eager to cast their votes in the off-year election.
Hate others' success
Speaking of government control over our lives. I read journalist Henry Hazlitt's summary of the gospel of Karl Marx. Sound familiar, America?
"The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community.
"Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others. Never under any circumstances admit that your own failure may be owing to your own weakness, or that the failure of anyone else may be due to his own defects--his laziness, incompetence, improvidence, or stupidity."
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at email@example.com.