HAILED TODAY, JAILED
By Stephen Wilson
(Moscow, Russia) - Many Russians sympathise with the plight of jailed swim coach and support his release!
It is bizarre! And some say 'it is beyond belief'! An exonerated swim coach and first-class teacher remains languishing in a jail! He should be applauded and granted a medal for keeping his composure under those trying circumstances. Of course, the scenario of being jailed due to a complaint of an unknown student for an alleged crime that never took place is not only reminiscent of a Kafka novel, but reminds Russians of the worst aspects of the Soviet Union where teachers could be jailed on the word of an informer. Those informers were often jealous of teacher's success in the classroom or simply out of malice sought to ruin the teacher's career. An atmosphere where anyone could be an informer and 'Walls have ears' created such an tense atmosphere that people stopped frankly, if at all, speaking to each other! You never knew who might be an informer!
You can see the results of this today in Russia! In a Russian school I taught in for a year not one teacher would greet me with a 'Good morning' or 'Hello'. They would never answer when I said 'Good morning'. Instead, they just walked by with a listless granite expression on their faces. Their faces were like masks.
The predicament of just one complaint wrecking or ruining a teacher's position in a school is familiar. If in business, the customer is reckoned to be always right, then in the sphere of education, the student might be misconstrued as always right. There is only one problem! What if customer is killing himself by overeating fast -food or the student turns out to be capricious or malicious? Having worked as a teacher of English in many schools I have found that many complaints made against a teacher are not based on reason, but on the basis 'they don't like the teacher' or have a 'grudge ' against them. There are many cases I could mention where students made eccentric complaints which were taken seriously!
Lack of space prevents me from mentioning them all. For example, a teacher from Manchester who was teaching English was reprimanded and later lost his post. What was the initial complaint? A student complained he was whistling in class! (There is an old superstition that if you whistle in a house, all the residents will become poor) Another student complained a teacher was not smiling enough! Those two petty complaints were taken seriously. I remember one great English teacher who was fired in Moscow because just one student complained about him! Yet all the rest of the students adored him, and when they heard that this one student had complained, bitterly scolded her saying, 'It is because of you we are losing our teacher'.
Another English teacher Daryl told me how they sent an English teacher to take over one of his classes. But this class were very happy with their teacher and did not want a new replacement! They expressed this to the top managers! The manager phoned up Daryl and shouted angrily, 'What have you done to those students'. Daryl bemused by the situation, retorted, 'I was just trying to do my job'.
Of course, those particular complaints are not as grave as the one made against the unlucky 30 year old maths teacher and coach Paul Rummelhoff. He stands or stood accused of having sex with a female student and member of a girls' swim team. But it illustrates one point. Too many officials don't question whether the complaint is made on legitimate and reasonable grounds and suspect the worst when none may exist.
Instead of proper investigation, they promptly imprison a teacher on the grounds of gossip, grudges, rumours or hearsay. In this case, innuendo seems to have played a great role.
The axiom of any just legal system rests on prosecuting somebody on the basis of a reasonable case against the accused. There has to be enough evidence to justify taking action against a person. You don't jail someone first, and then start seeking solid evidence! And the answers which Paul Rummelhoff gave to Jim Vail suggests that the officials were hesitating and not knowing whether to take any action against the accused. For why was it the case that allegedly happened in January, and Paul went down to the principal's office, waited for three hours for the law department to come and they never turned up. Why is it the case that neither the principal or Paul knew why he had to leave the school?
It is likely the officials did not have a clue as to how or whether they had any sound evidence against Paul. They had no real case! This is vindicated by a decision made by the DCFS. They declared, 'The DCFS determined that all the allegations against Rummelhoff were unfounded' and that 'You will not be listed as a perpetrator of child abuse or of neglect'. According to Scottish law, this statement would be interpreted as 'Not Guilty'! Another statement which declares, 'This does not necessarily mean that an incident did not occur. An incident may have occurred, but the evidence did not rise to the level required to indicate for abuse or neglect as dictated by state law and DCFS administrative rule'. So we have two incompatible verdicts on Paul. The first claims he is 'not guilty', the second is 'Case not proven'. The officials seemed to have a muddled and mixed up views of things. They should either declare one verdict or more manfully, admit they made a grave error and apologise to the accused before they get into deeper trouble!
(Under Scottish law, unlike English, three verdicts are possible in a court case of guilty, not guilty and case not proven).
You might ask me why I'm talking about verdicts when there has been no trial! Well, the statements made by the officials are written as if they have reached judgement, as if they were
verdicts. You would have thought that a trial had already taken place despite the fact the accused does not even know the evidence against him and has been already deceived by educational officials, not to mention a policeman.
I think the clue as to why someone made such a spurious allegation against him was given by Paul himself in an interview. As a teacher who has to obtain great results, he has to put his students under a degree of pressure.
Some of those students, accustomed to a relatively easy life may have resented the workload and angrily retaliated.
I myself have been acquainted with such cases in Russia. Jealousy may well have played a strong role in this case. Despite the fact that Paul Rummelfield is a first class teacher and brilliant coach who wants to share his success with everyone, some people bitterly resent this. After all, why go to all the trouble to ruin a great coach?
Justice should be calm, contained and careful. It does not overreact or rush in where angels fear to tread. By the way, justice is not jealousy! Officials could actually learn a lot from Paul's example. He is undoubtedly endowed with the right temperament to be a teacher. He never lost his composure under a police-interrogation or unjust confinement. Do educational officials or policemen in this case display this calm temperament?
This is why he should be immediately released, returned to his position as a teacher and allowed to continue as a coach!
Many Russians have heard of his case and are offering their full moral and spiritual support to Paul.
If Paul requests, we can even petition Russians for his release. And believe me, this petition will have a lot of signatures!