It seems like more and more local people these days are writing books. We've featured several stories in the paper recently about such literary gems, many of which are printed by so-called vanity publishers who will print whatever you send them so long as you pay them to do it.
One such book was written by an Augusta man who served four years in prison for drugs. His new book is called How to Stay Out of Prison in Georgia.
I guess this is why I haven't written a book. With a title like that, my book would be one sentence long: Don't break the law.
While we've had plenty of book-writing going on around here, we've had a heckuva lot of high-profile law-breaking, too. Robin Williams and Charles Walker are waiting to be sentenced after their corruption convictions, and the clock is ticking on Linda Schrenko's upcoming trial date.
Incidentally, I heard about the book How to Stay Out of Prison in Georgia from Walker's newspaper. The book might be too late to do him any good.
I don't know if it's too late for Bill Cleveland. I'm not sure what to make of this circus swirling around the substitute teacher's arrest on seven counts of child molestation.
Much of the public anger has been focused on the school staff who initially failed to report the allegations against Cleveland. People ought to be angry; they need to be able to trust school officials to take care of their children.
The reality is that school staffers do take care of our children, and we know it " no matter how much some folks try to whip up hysteria. Administrators make plenty of criminal referrals for suspected child abuse and neglect; their failure to do so in Cleveland's case stands out because it is such a rarity.
But an accusation againstsomeone in the school system is rare, too; the vast majority of cases of suspected child abuse and neglect reported by school officials are committed at home, by family members.
"We report a lot of potential abuse," says School Superintendent Tommy Price, "but it's outside the school."
Of course, this can be interpreted as "we report on other folks, but don't rat on our own." Yet kids often are a lot safer in school than in their own neighborhoods, and sometimes safer than in their own homes.
Meanwhile, while most of us are raking the school system over the coals for slow reporting on Cleveland, the accused himself largely has been able to avoid the spotlight. Most of the initial smoke blew over while he was vacationing in France, and since his return the coverage has focused on discipline for those who failed to report what he's accused of doing.
But we need to keep in perspective that Cleveland is the one charged with seven counts of child molestation. Failing to pass along those reports fast enough is bad, but actually being accused of molesting seven young girls is a helluva lot worse.
Cleveland is expected to fight the allegations against him in court. He will face jurors who will be told to assume his innocence unless prosecutors prove guilt. And thanks to a campaign to generate support from Cleveland's Alleluia Community neighbors, the courtroom likely will be packed with faces friendly to the accused, just as it was for his bond hearing this past week.
Do those crowds help? One experienced observer, noting Cleveland's $25,000 bond, said he's never seen Chief Judge William Fleming Sr. go so easy on a molestation defendant.
Somewhere in this sea of manufactured support will be seven lonely victims hoping not to get lost in the tide. If Cleveland is found guilty of what he's accused of, he'll pay for it. But those little girls and their families are already paying - and no one is paying attention to them.
Maybe they ought to try writing a book.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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