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Where is our moral conscience?

In light of the incidences of the last few weeks in Lake Oswego, I wonder who we listen to for our moral guidelines. It seems to me it used to be our faith, and we turned to our consciences for establishing how we treat one another. Where has that gone?

When a coach can physically abuse a student in the classroom or on the court and still be allowed to teach, I have to ask myself who is in charge? When girls on a dance team are humiliated, their bodies assaulted by unwanted and peer-pressured hazing experiences, who decides if this is “right” or acceptable?

I am a parent of a high school girl in Lake Oswego. I read the headlines and I see where our district administrators at all levels seek advice on how to handle the situation. I have spent 17 years trying to protect my daughter from unwanted invasions of her body and her mind, and I trust that the schools will do the same. We don’t have to agree on everything, but I think it is important to agree on protecting our children.

As I read about what these young boys and girls endured, I experience outrage at society and the people who are supposed to help protect our children. We turn to lawyers to define for us what is acceptable and what isn’t. In the meantime, coaches continue to work with their students, OUR children. We focus on the adults, but how do these boys and girls feel about these adults who back down and spend countless hours researching what is right? Are these students getting any help in dealing with the humiliations that they experienced? They are forced to return to school, to see the adults who allowed these things to happen, and to be coerced, in some ways, to view these events as “normal.”

I am worried about our children, our schools and our society as a whole, when we cannot step in and protect our kids — and even more, that we consider these events as “fun.” How did our thinking get so distorted? The whys almost don’t matter now. What matters is how we move forward. Can we make the commitment to protect our students and make the effort to put ourselves in their shoes? Can we stop trying to define the boundaries and use our common sense about what is right? It doesn’t seem all that difficult to me.

Can we find a better source of our moral conscience? Can we look within ourselves and know that any humiliation of our kids is wrong? Do we stand up for our children regardless of what others think? Aren’t these the things that we are trying to teach our children? And if we don’t follow them, how can we expect our kids to have a moral compass?

This may be simplifying the issues, but sometimes returning to basics is the best answer. Perhaps looking at the coaches’ behavior is not the best avenue into this issue. Having empathy for what our children are experiencing might lead us down a road to a more moral, humane and empathic response.

Susan Von Tobel is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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