February 25, 2005

Wake-up call

Bradenton Herald

What did they know and when did they know it? More importantly, what do they know that they still haven't shared with the news media or general public?

The questions relate to the Joseph Gilpin case, and they apply to school officials and now perhaps the Manatee Sheriff's Office. After pretending for weeks that no one was aware of sexual allegations against the former Haile Middle School assistant principal, it turns out that at least the school district's attorney and former superintendent knew of them three years ago. They just apparently never told anyone else that Gilpin had been named in a civil lawsuit in Massachusetts alleging sexual abuse.

Moreover, the sheriff's office has known for several weeks that a former Bayshore student had filed a complaint about improper advances by Gilpin on an overnight trip, but didn't see fit to release that information. Surely that news would have been relevant to the public as the Gilpin story has unfolded, mostly gleaned from obscure files by Herald investigative reporters, not honest assessments from officials.

Certainly there is a need for caution in protecting the rights of the accused. There is also a need to preserve evidence in ongoing investigations. But in a case of this nature, there is also a need to protect the public, especially children. By keeping information about this case secret, these two agencies ignored that obligation.

Posted by kshaw at February 25, 2005 06:40 AM