The dog that didn’t bark

Ken Otterbourg of the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina notes that open records requests that turn up…nothing…can be just as important as those that do.

In this case, Ken’s newspaper asked a school district for the personnel file of Robert Watson, a middle-school math teacher now convicted of molesting ten of his students. According to North Carolina’s laws on this, the district did not have to turn over the file, but could voluntarily choose to do so if they believed that this might result in the restoration of trust in a public institution.

They did, and the file indicated that Watson was an excellent teacher. As the newspaper article puts it, “Officials say the case shows how hard it is to predict behaviors”.

I believe that it is hard to predict behaviors and that child molesters regularly are successful at avoiding discovery. On the other hand, I wouldn’t say that releasing this file would tend to increase the trust of the public in a public institution.

“Mr. Watson works well with his students and brings out the best in them. He continues to help his students experience success in math through his classroom during school and tutoring after school.”

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