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A Dubious Choice

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eye on the news

A Dubious Choice

Deputy Secretary of Education nominee Cindy Marten’s record on sexual-assault cases should alarm parents. April 2, 2021
Education
Politics and law

Joe Biden’s nominee for Deputy Secretary of Education apparently does not believe that it’s necessarily a serious issue if a child gets sexually assaulted at school. Nor does she believe that educators have any moral duty, beyond their bureaucratic obligations, to report such abuse to the authorities. These conclusions can be drawn from simply reading Cindy Marten’s own words—spoken under oath, on penalty of perjury.

Under Marten’s leadership, the San Diego Unified School District became notorious for sweeping sexual abuse under the rug. In 2019, the school district paid a $375,000 settlement to Michael Gurrieri, a former school district investigator who claimed that he was fired for refusing to self-censor additional allegations of sexual assault in a report about an incident between two kindergarten students at Green Elementary School. The parents of the alleged victim claimed that the school district stalled its investigation, and that the principal allowed the alleged assailant to remain in the same classroom as their child.

When Gurrieri’s lawyer deposed Marten, he asked her about the incident:

Lawyer: In your opinion, is an incident between two boys—two kindergarten boys in the school bathroom where one of them forces oral copulation on another a serious incident?

Marten: It depends.

Lawyer: What does it depend on?

Marten: The individuals and the circumstances.

Lawyer: So that may or may not—

Marten: Are other disabilities involved? Are there other things? What—I need to know all of the facts before I would determine the seriousness of it.

Lawyer: So it may or may not be serious to you?

Marten: It depends.

Imagine being the mother of a sexually violated five-year-old and hearing the woman in charge of his school system say that.

The lawyer also asked Marten whether such incidents should be reported to the authorities. She said “of course,” because “we’re mandated reporters as educators.” The lawyer then pressed Marten about whether there might be any other reason beside the strict letter of the law to report sexual abuse.

Lawyer: Why do you think it would be important to report incidents of that nature to CPS?

Marten: I just explained that we were mandated to report incidents of that nature; so that’s why it’s important to follow the mandate that is required under our credentials.

Lawyer: Any other reason why it’s important to report?

Marten: I’ve already answered that.

Lawyer: Okay. I’m asking if there’s any other reasons besides it being mandated.

Marten: No.

This exchange was hardly a secret. ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN were all sent this deposition months ago by an organization named Kids First.

If Marten were a Republican, it’s almost inconceivable that the mainstream media—not to mention national education beat reporters at the New York Times and Washington Post—would have ignored it.

Kids First also sent the deposition to Kamala Harris’s senate office, so it’s all but certain that the Biden administration was well aware. But perhaps they reckoned—correctly, it turns out—that the mainstream media and education reporters would not dare expose a Democratic nominee.

At her confirmation hearing last week, Democratic senators predictably sang the praises of yet another Biden nominee. More perplexing, however, was the behavior of Republican senators. At least three Republican senate offices were aware of the contents of this deposition and how it fits into the broader pattern of the handling of sexual assault and abuse cases in Marten’s district. Yet none of them saw fit to raise questions about it. Nor did any of them ask why her school district subjected staff to training that declared that white teachers are guilty of “spirit murdering” black students.

It’s hard to imagine that any American parent could look at Marten’s statements on the sexual abuse of children and conclude that she is morally fit for the number-two position in public education. But it’s not clear at this point whether Republican senators will support her nomination nonetheless.

Photo: nico_blue/iStock

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