Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Twin pillars of Texas Education at a crossroads

Sen. Dan Patrick (R--Houston), Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and a Priest

Public vouchers for private schools

Austin – Texas education is at the vortex of storm of controversy sparked not by sexual abuse, but by finance and power relations.

The sexual abuse and rape of any person – including children – is not really about sex. It's about power, aggression, and the hateful dominance of the helpless.

They object to teachings in World History and World Religion classes that the Holy Bible is literature, or anything other than fact. Numerous people have objected to teachings about Islam, a faith they find repugnant.

Conservative Catholics and evangelical fundamentalist Christians are set to do battle in this session's legislative caucuses and committees, clashes that will surely resound through the decades to follow.

Since the foundation of the Republic, the two underpinnings of education in Texas have been the Masonic Lodge and the Roman Catholic Church.

Both have suffered an onslaught of negative opinion due to sexual misconduct of their most trusted servants, the priests and teachers, administrators and board members who care for the children and look after their education.

Both are rocked with the scandal of trying to cover up their wrongful deeds, and both are paying the price in the nation's courts – to the tune of multi-millions of dollars.

When students and former students tried to expose the sick practices of the institutions, they were intimidated, threatened, and kept from the bar of justice by cops and courts willing to look the other way, lawyers who turned a blind eye, and a membership afraid of rocking the boat.

Quite a bit is known about the correction of certain Roman Catholic Priests whom the Church has found guilty of sexual molestation of youthful persons in their schools and at their altars. Two American Cardinals have made the information available to the press, according to the wishes of a conservative Pope Benedict XVI.

Not much is known of a similar situation in Masonry, which began as an excommunicated order or militant monk warriors who operated as the order of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ of the Temple of Jerusalem.

Accused of sexual depredations and trampling the cross, the Grand Master Jacques DeMolay and his lieutenants were suppressed, captured, confessed to their sins, and immolated alive at the stake one day in Paris. Most of the rest of the Knights Templar escaped, and they devised the system of Freemasonry to aid them in their getaway.

The Masonic Home and School of Texas suffered an onslaught of sexual predators from the seventies through the turn of the century, according to court records.

Though local police in Ft. Worth attempted to file criminal charges, the effort was diverted repeatedly, and finally, after 20 years, two pedophiles were eventually convicted for their crimes.

When a staff member who was himself molested while a student at the state's smallest independent school district filed suit on behalf of himself and 14 other students, he was summarily fired from his position, and his lawsuit dismissed.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs and the defendants, the officials of the Grand Lodge of Texas at Waco, and staff members who knew or should have known of the plight of the students, took their sweet time about settling the affair.

The terms of settlements with individuals so injured, and their answers to interrogatories posed in depositions, are all sealed in perpetuity by court order following an order to dismiss the suit signed in June of 1999, but it took until 2005 to arrive at the settlement agreements.

What is known are the allegations of complaint in Scott Bickle v. Dr. James Stewart, Masonic Home and School of Texas, and the Grand Lodge of Texas. (Cause No. 342-17926-99, Tarrant County) The explosive complaint filed in a state district court in Ft. Worth nearly ripped Texas Masonry apart at the seams, led to financial dealings of a shady nature, and shattered the credibility of dozens of Past Grand Masters.

The motives that caused this gentle fraternity led by President Mirabeau B. Lamar of the Republic of Texas to establish the first system of public schooling under a scheme that saw Masonic lodges build schools on ground floors of their buildings and locate their lodge rooms on the floors above was besmirched by these revolting developments.

In the late 19th century, the Grand Lodge of Texas opened a home and school for orphans of Texas Masons or grandchildren of Masons whose parents had been incapacitated.

Most Masons agree that the operation fared well until the administration of Past Grand Master Joseph Regian, a Metroplex undertaker who ran a large funeral and cemetery operation, when the policy shifted to include services to marginalized children who had fallen into trouble with juvenile authorities and who had no Masonic connection with family relations.

But the troubles with sexual predators had existed far in the past, preceding the experience of boarding and educating youthful offenders.

According to Mr. Bickle's lawsuit, “Prior to the sexual abuse of the Plaintiff and within a five year period, Defendants documented the sexual abuse of nearly two dozen children by two sexual predators likewise employed by Defendants. One of those sexual predators signed a guilty plea regarding charges brought on behalf of two of the children, while the other predator was arrested and spent time in jail related to charges being filed by the investigating officer of the Ft. Worth Police Department.”

The suit alleged that the negligence “proximately resulted in the abuse of the Plaintiff” and “resulted in no changes in administrative procedure by the Defendants...”

Dr. Stewart testified under oath as the director of the school that the establishment failed to become a licensed residential child care facility because it “would be very costly” and was not considered “desirable” by the defendants.

The suit alleges that the defendants defrauded Mr. Bickle, who was president of the student body, of his claims of sexual abuse and assault when he and his mother sued in 1995 for the same reason.

...Defendants owed Plaintiff (Mr. Bickle) a duty of fiduciary loyalty,” according to the attorney who wrote the petition, Timothy G. Chovanec.

They “sought to manipulate him through intimidation, misrepresentation and non-disclosure of their long and culpable history of child sexual abuse...” His continued participation in a lawsuit was harmful to the Home and School, they said, “...the only home known by the Plaintiff since he was a young child.”

In 1999, when he turned 18, he again filed suit. In that suit, he alleged that “Hiring and retention” of two pedophiles named J.D. Hausler and Jean Eller, and the failure to pursue their criminal prosecution to the fullest extent allowed by law, resulted in “breach of a recognized fiduciary duty owed the children and families...” and the “funds from the Masonic endowment fund and other trust properties.”

The use of those funds in an attempt to quietly settle the cascade of lawsuits that followed generated a huge amount of controversy.

The Grand Master called a meeting of the Past Masters of Texas lodges in 2005 to request permission to dip into the $50 million endowment fund to pay off the lawyers in private, but the members turned them down.

When it got late in the day, bus charter operators said they were leaving, that all who wanted a ride home to far-flung destinations in Beaumont or Amarillo, the piney woods or the Trans-Pecos, needed to get aboard, or be left behind.

As soon as those members cleared the Grand Lodge auditorium, the chairman claimed over the objections of remaining members that a quorum was present and attempted to reverse the earlier decision not to fund the settlement.

But it didn't stop there.

Stanley Patrick, a past master of Waco Lodge No. 92, is a retired Postmaster who relocated to the Waco area from his home near Houston to run postal operations there. He states his case without equivocation.

They lied,” he says.

Financial records show the board of the home and school borrowed funds to pay the settlements, and the Grand Lodge was by its constitution obliged to repay the loans of its subsidiary corporation.

Faced with the proposition that a runaway entity of its organization was bleeding the coffers dry because of their own past negligence, Texas Masonry voted the following December to close the venerable Ft. Worth campus, which was later sold.

It is now owned by ACH Child and Family Services, which is funded in partnership by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Tarrant County, and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Its mission: to provide care for abused children.

1 comment:

  1. http://www.katv.com/story/22201626/one-dozen-delays J.D. Hausler has been living in Arkansas for 20 years free as a bird.