Miami-Dade County Public Schools insisted, in a settlement, that five young women who were raped by their physical-education teacher at Brownsville Middle School were not to “impugn or disparage” the school system in any way.
Fortunately, we’re under no such gag order.
The school system went to ridiculous lengths to conceal its almost $10 million settlement with the five plaintiffs.
First, it was a waste of effort. Under Florida law, the gag order was unenforceable from the start: “Any portion of an agreement or contract which has the purpose or effect of concealing information relating to the settlement or resolution of any claim or action against the state, its agencies, or subdivisions or against any municipality or constitutionally created body or commission is void, contrary to public policy, and may not be enforced.”
Second, the school system’s lack of transparency, concealing the settlement from the taxpayers who helped fund it. Surely, school district officials didn’t think that publicly owning up to paying the more than $9 million to young women repeatedly sexually violated by a district employee was worse than the rapes themselves.
Most infuriating, however, is that by the time PE teacher Wendell Nibbs was sentenced to eight years in prison in January, he had faced allegations of rape and sexual assault in the school system for more than 10 years. He was arrested in 2017 on two charges of sexual battery against a minor in familial custody. He resigned from the school district that same day and remained under house arrest. This is the crime for which he received the eight-year sentence.
While Nibbs was awaiting trial in that case, two of his former students sued the school district in federal court for violating their civil rights and negligence. A third girl joined and then two others, whose accusations led Nibbs to be arrested — again — while awaiting trial.
Prior to his resignation in 2017, nine students had accused him of sexual misconduct through his 15-year career with the school district. Where was the district’s obligation to accusers in its care? Where was its sense of accountability all those years? As the mother of one of the victims said to the media when the lawsuit was filed, it hurt “to see my child go through something that I thought the School Board was there to protect her (against).
“The School Board could have prevented this.”
Where’s the lie?
Back in June, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho tweeted: “Financial transparency and fiscal responsibility matter.” Not enough, in the case of at least five violated young women.
The Miami-Dade County Public Schools shouldn’t have fixated on muzzling Nibbs’ victims to keep them from disparaging the school system. Rather, the district was disparaged by its own misguided actions.
An editorial from the Miami Herald.