As much as the official reaction to one of the worst child molestation cases in South Carolina history is muddled with gobs of legalese, the correct reaction was clear and simple from the beginning.
“What we have to do when this is over,” Mount Pleasant police chief Harry Sewell said a few days after confessed sexual predator Skip ReVille was arrested in November of 2011, “is get everyone together — people from the places he worked, law enforcement, parents, some of the coaches around here, child abuse experts — and try to see how this happened and make sure it doesn't happen again.”
Tragically, it's never over.
There are no guarantees.
But the community committee idea is excellent, overdue and required.
Such a proposal wasn't in The Citadel's independent report released last week, many pages chastising the school for an “inadequate investigation.” But the report says The Citadel did not cover up complaints about former cadet ReVille engaging in sexual misconduct with campers while a counselor in 2002.
ReVille, as an unfortunately ubiquitous youth sports coach who held other jobs with access to kids, last June was sentenced to 50 years in prison for molesting 23 boys. The 33-year-old Alabama native confessed to more abuse but many families refused to press charges.
The Citadel's independent analysis is short on accountability matters. It cites a simple “lack of awareness” among the reasons ReVille wasn't pegged as trouble early on.
Doug Snyder, chairman of The Citadel's Board of Visitors, promised to “act swiftly.”
Great, because we need a Prevention and Awareness Committee, some real leadership and a plan.
Rosa and McGinley
• Start with consistent input from the smartest and highest ranking executives from the places ReVille worked, including Citadel president John Rosa, Charleston County school district superintendent Nancy McGinley, current and former leaders at Pinewood Prep, and the top brass from Coastal Christian Prep School, the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department and ReVille's church. Share prevention and compliance concepts.
• Get representatives from the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center and Darkness to Light involved at every step.
• Include law enforcement, a prosecutor, a good defense attorney.
• Bring in a PTA rep, a youth minister and veteran coaches who work with children at various age levels.
• Seek guidance from the parents of victims, and victims (anonymously, of course).
• Solid accountability can be costly. Find sponsors, likely glad to help.
• Don't make this a boys only concern; girls are more likely to become victims of child abuse.
• Meet often, or until there is enough substance for a thorough report.
It's a changing, vulnerable world for sports-minded kids. Busy parents and single parents often must rely on coaches and other strangers to provide rides from practice. They trust travel league coaches. They believe in coaches who hold Bible studies on the side.
ReVille took advantage of those situations, and too many others.
Sorry isn't enough
Accountability doesn't have to mean heads on a platter; doing the right thing helps.
It's not too late to expand on some of the prevention programs many of the organizations stung by ReVille have adopted but confined to themselves.
Rosa's initial reaction to ReVille's arrest and revelation that sordid suspicion surfaced at The Citadel was succinct.
“We're sorry,” he said at a news conference 17 months ago.
Surely, people from Pinewood Prep and the Charleston County School District said the same thing.
It's time to prove it, to get together with others and give our kids the better report they deserve.
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