For years, Star editors pretended that sexual exploitation of minors troubled them when the real problem was the Catholic Church’s position on abortion.

Facing serious sexual abuse allegations against two of his teachers, North Kansas City school superintendent Dan Clemens can take some small solace in the fact that his district is not Catholic.

If it were, based on past performance by the Kansas City Star and other local media, “Dan Clemens” would soon be a household name.

On February 2 of this year, the parent of a middle school student who was sexually assaulted by a teacher filed a lawsuit against the North Kansas City School District  in federal court. The suit accuses the district of hiring teacher Samuel Waltemath in 2011 despite a history of sexual misconduct in other school districts.

As reported in the Sentinel yesterday, it was in 2011 that the  State of Missouri enacted the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act to prevent districts from “passing the trash.” In the past, it was common for school districts to sign confidentially agreements with sexual offenders that traded the teacher’s quiet departure for a promise not to tell other districts the reason for the departure.

Waltemath seems to have beaten the deadline. Last November Waltemath pleaded guilty to second-degree statutory sodomy with a female middle school student and was sentenced in December to seven years in prison. The Star did not mention Clemens’s name in its article on the lawsuit.

Nor has the Star mentioned Clemens’s name in its two articles on James Green, the North Kansas City School District middle school teacher arrested last week on sodomy charges with a male student. Based on his own admissions, Green’s crimes would seem to have spanned at least twelve years across multiple school districts.

Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn had no such luck. The Kansas City Star ran scores of articles and editorials about Finn, many of them gleeful, and created enough of a furor locally that Jackson County felt empowered to prosecute him. He was the first Bishop in the nation convicted of failing to notify law enforcement authorities in regard to an apparent crime. In this case, pornographic images were found on the computer of a diocesan priest, Shawn Ratigan.

After the images were discovered, Ratigan attempted suicide. Finn consulted his attorneys, and they assured him that what Ratigan had done may have been perverse–taking lurid, clothed pictures of unaware little girls–but was not criminal. When Ratigan recovered, Finn removed him from a school setting and placed him in a retirement home for nuns.

When Ratigan persevered with his photography at a family gathering, all hell broke loose. Ratigan is currently serving a fifty-year sentence. The Star ran at least ninety articles on his case. Unlike Green and Waltemath, however, Ratigan had no sexual contact with his victims. The severity of his punishment owes much to the media hysteria created around the case.

While the Ratigan case was unfolding, local school districts were apparently still passing the trash, and the Star was choosing not to notice. For years, its editors got to pretend that it was sexual exploitation of minors that troubled them. One suspects, however, that what really troubled them was the Catholic Church’s position on abortion.

 

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