Keep predators out of schools

Children should be able to go to school without fear of being sexually assaulted.

Period.

It is bad enough to think of a student harassing or assaulting a fellow student. However, the thought of those in positions of authority exploiting children for sexual gratification is, frankly, grotesque.

Other than parents, the adults a child finds at school (teachers, principals, paraeducators, coaches, guidance counselors, etc.) are likely those the child grows to trust the most. Considering how many children in society come from broken homes, it is vitally important that a child be able to trust the adults at school.

This makes the situation of former Exeter High School guidance counselor Kristie Torbick extremely troubling. Last week, the 39-year-old woman pleaded guilty to four counts of felonious sexual assault against a 14-year-old student. The activity took place during 2016 and 2017.

Torbick is but one example of a troubling nationwide trend in which educators, both male and female, have used their positions of authority to sexually exploit children. Schools in the Nashua area are not immune in this matter.

What advances our outrage in Torbick’s case is that, according to multiple published reports, dozens of New Hampshire public school employees actually showed up at her sentencing hearing to support her.

Although prosecutors had recommended a sentence of five to 10 years for Torbick, the judge showed leniency in imposing only a two-and-a-half to five-year sentence. This drew the ire of New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence Public Affairs Director Amanda Grady Sexton.

“It shows a significant lack of understanding among these educators of the severity of the crime this victim suffered when they should be concerned about protecting the safety of their students,” Sexton said.

We certainly hope the school employees who spoke on Torbick’s behalf were not condoning the actions to which she admits. Surely, they understand there is absolutely no tolerance for a 39-year-old adult using her position of authority to sexually exploit a 14-year-old child.

The effort to protect children from predators in school is multi-pronged. Schools and law enforcement agencies must do a better job of screening those seeking employment in education; universities must do a better job teaching future educators; and parents must make sure children feel comfortable going to them with concerns about an educator’s actions.

Children should feel safe and secure in school. Society must do a better job ensuring that happens.