What’s with these teachers and coaches?!

Scott Zeigler, Oregon coach charged with sex crimes

I don’t get it.

For the umpteenth time in my 12 years as a reporter, I’ve covered another coach/teacher/teacher’s aide arrested and accused of having sex with an underage student. For 12 years, it’s been different people, same story line. Man in a supervisory role with access to kids abuses that trust and commits sex abuse. Sometimes, it’s a woman. Sometimes, it’s a church. Nearly every time, it is an adult parents have placed their confidence in who winds up violating a sacred boundary.

As reporters, it’s easy to use the word “relationship” to describe these crimes, especially when the timeline of what’s taken place spans one, two, or three years. But isn’t it important to remember what these incidents really are? Neil Goldschmidt taught us that. A grown man doesn’t have a sexual relationship with a minor. He abuses that minor. It’s sex abuse. Let’s not romanticize it.

Arrests like this remind us that the vast majority of molestation doesn’t happen when a stranger grabs your kid off the street. Chances are, you know the abuser. Your kid knows the abuser. The abuser has access to your kid.

The vast majority of teachers, coaches and educators are hard-working, ethical people for whom boundaries aren’t an issue. Sadly, abusers of this trust give other mentors who share their title a bad name.

Let’s celebrate those among us who are the champions of children.

Let’s keep our eyes peeled, our ears tuned to the signs of abuse.

Kids are our most precious investment.

Let’s protect them as such.

Crash

Maybe you’ve seen the movie.

I saw the reality of it today, as I sat in Dean Pace’s home. With his wife of just eight months by his side, he showed me the ten-inch long purple scar down torso, accentuated with the dots where the staples once punctured his skin.

I watched as he got winded just standing, and lamented his inability now to rough house with his 5-year old stepson, Roman.

I observed as a man who has every reason to be angry and bitter toward the 14-year old police say hit him in a stolen van, instead, extolled the virtues of positive thinking.

Dean realizes he has many reasons to be grateful.

He’s alive, out of the hospital, and loved by his family who painstakingly cared for him.

He wonders still about the stranger — a man, he thinks — who came up to the window of his SUV shortly after impact, and asked if he was okay.

But he can’t help think about what was lost. “All of February,” he says. And Valentine’s day. And Roman’s fifth birthday. All transpired while Dean fought for his life in the hospital, with the help of doctors and nurses at OHSU.

The teenager who hit Dean Pace faces felony hit and run charges. See, after the crash, police say he fled from the scene on foot. Investigators say a post on social media led to his arrest the next day, at Sam Barlow High School, where the kid’s a student. The boy’s dad tells me his son’s never been in trouble before. Also, that the family’s had to move because of this.

He says they pray every day for Dean Pace and his recovery.

When I tell him Dean is out of the hospital and mending, a relieved sigh comes through the receiver.

Two families. One fateful afternoon.

Dean Pace shared with me text messages he and his wife, Olga, exchanged that day as he left work. (Olga is freshly emigrated from Russia. They were married just six months when the crash occurred.)

Dean: I’m coming home. I love you!

Olga: I wait you. I love you too.

Olga: Bad traffik?

Olga: I worry. You ok?

Olga: I worry.

Olga: I worry.

Olga: I worry.

Olga: I worry.

By then, Dean was en route to the hospital, via LifeFlight.