A Better Perspective on the Jenkins Situation

I’ve been wracking my brain the past week or so about how I could have better expressed my thoughts about what is happening with Matt Thompson, the Jenkins football program, and the school itself.

I named this blog Polk Perspectives for a reason; I wanted to provide insight and reasonable perspective to things and not get into accusations and drive-by commentary, etc. With my first post about Thompson’s arrest and his tenure as coach at Jenkins, I don’t think I lived up to those standards as much as I would have hoped.

Don’t get me wrong, I stand behind what was in that post. But I didn’t emphasize enough my main point that was at the end. This is a terrible situation for all involved, and the best thing that we can do is pray for everyone and try to find a way to move forward that helps people, not hurts them.

That’s not really the route I took. Bringing up information that I remembered from when Thompson was hired didn’t really do anything to help anyone. It’s interesting, somewhat sensational, but it doesn’t answer the question of how everyone can move forward and turn this into a positive.

If Thompson did what he is accused of doing (and he has NOT been found guilty of anything), then he’ll be punished regardless of what I dig up from old story comments. And the school will still have a scar from which it will need to recover, and others involved will have to repair their lives, as well. So I don’t think my post did much to improve or change the situation, and I regret that.

The right perspective on this, again, is how can everyone turn this into some kind of positive. As I mentioned in the first post, Thompson could develop a meaningful message that would be a resource to other school employees in the future. If he can help even one person avoid getting caught up in something similar, then that would a success and a great positive going forward.

Thompson is a dynamic person, and he could have the opportunity to channel that passion and use it to encourage others.

George Jenkins and other schools in the county can use this situation and another recent one involving a Lake Gibson guidance counselor as an opportunity to really stress to their employees AND to their students how and why to avoid inappropriate behavior between students and staff.

There is a lot of educating that needs to happen with students on this issue. Television, books, and other outlets that teens are exposed to actually make relationships between teachers and students seem OK. If there isn’t a strong foundation at home from parents or other family members, where are students going to learn the right kind of relationships to pursue and how to pursue them. There needs to be more resources available and more awareness in general to help prevent these situations before they go too far.

But ultimately the responsibility lies with the teacher or staff member. They’re the ones that need to step up and realize if a relationship with a student is going too far. There should be processes in place where someone can safely seek help if they feel they’re about to cross a line or if they’re even unsure of where the line is. And there should be people designated to counsel all parties involved so that nothing is lingering.

Maybe some of these things already exist, and if so, that’s fantastic. But they should be emphasized now and enhanced. The last thing this county needs is a rash of accusations of inappropriate relationships between teachers and students. This controversy, and the Lake Gibson incident, should serve as the nudge that helps prevent that.

Although this is a tragic situation for all parties involved and one in which no one ever wants to find themselves, there is the opportunity for it do lead to changes and improvements that will benefit others in the future. To me, that’s the best way to analyze this, and I wish I would have done it better the first time.

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