Friday, May 9, 2008

Local woman's courage sheds light on "Dirty Little Secret"

I've been communicating with Tricia Green off and on for months .. but we hadn't met face-to-face until last night. While her name was never reported, Tricia was the young lady who came forward in 2006 telling police that Randall Crane, a music teacher at Jennings Middle School, had molested her for several years beginning in 2001 when she was 14.

Police took her statement .. then set up a sting phone call to see if Crane would admit to the relationship. After recording the call, Crane was arrested and later plead guilty to sexual battery, serving six months of a two-year sentence.

Back in 2006, I gave Tricia her space as the story progressed. If she'd wanted to talk to the media, she would have let us know. Meanwhile, I dug into Crane's teaching record and found that he'd been investigated for allegedly crossing the line with young girls in the Manchester Schools in the mid 1990's .. but none of that information was shared with Akron Schools when Crane applied for his new job. Instead, Manchester wrote Crane a letter of recommendation .. and the district's "Dirty Little Secret" stayed hidden until we uncovered the truth.

Tricia was still coming to grips with telling her story of abuse when she saw our story about Crane's past. She was stunned. After Crane went to jail, Tricia told me that she would someday give me an interview about what really happened .. and about how upset she was that a school district that could have kept Crane out of her school failed to take action.

Last night .. that day arrived. I was amazed at the story I heard.

Tricia's story aired tonight on Channel 3 and the Akron-Canton News.

I can't imagine how tough it's been for Tricia to get her life together after going through an experience like this. She told me that she was an easy target for Crane .. because she came from a broken home and was raising younger siblings at age 14. She showed me her middle school report card. She missed 31 days in one grading period because she was home watching siblings. She says no one from the school district ever called or inquired as to why she wasn't coming to school (a troubling statement in itself) -- no one noticed, except Randall Crane.

She was forced to grow up quickly and without needed support .. so Crane tried to fill that void and filled her mind with flattery until he lured her into a relationship.

For years, she blamed herself. Crane was married .. and she felt like an adult ... so she must be at least half responsible. She knows now that she was used.

Crane continued to call Tricia all through high school. She kept telling herself that "this is what relationships are like." Eventually, she confided in a close friend who convinced her to go to the police and get counseling.

In Ohio, it's always illegal for at teacher to have a sexual relationship with a student .. regardless of whether the sex is consensual or if the child has reached the age of 18. Legally, Tricia was not at fault.

I can't imagine how may sleepless nights Tricia must have endured trying to make sense of all of this. She told me of having to duck down in Crane's car so no one would see her as he drove her to his home. She told me that other teachers knew Crane was "close" with students but didn't stop it.

"People a) don't' believe you because he was such a great teacher or b) or they don't want to believe you because he was such a great teacher," Tricia said. "It's embarrassing .. it's sad .. unbelievable that a teacher would do something like that. I think it's disgusting."

I told Tricia that I didn't need to know the intimate details or make her relive the hell she endured .. but rather, I wanted to give her the opportunity to tell other districts to get their act together when it comes to reporting suspicious activity by teachers .. and to motivate others who've endured similar abuse to get help and come forward.

That part was really important to Tricia.

"It takes a really strong person to tell someone (that you were molested) and if you can just do that, that would make a difference," she said. "And for them to tell someone, that's the world to me, I've changed the world in one person's eyes and that's all that matters."

Tricia had also watched a story I did in February in which another local teacher -- with his identity concealed -- talked openly about how easy it was to target students for sex. That man gave the advice that parents should get to know their kid's teacher because that will deter predators from striking.

Tricia told that that couldn't be further from the truth. She said that Crane liked meeting her parents .. because it gave him information about her life at home .. information that he could twist to show that he was caring for her while turning her against her family.

We spent about an hour together last night ... only 15 minutes of it on-camera .. and only one minute and 47 seconds of that made the air.

Yet, her openness really touched me. To see the pain in her eyes .. all these years later .. makes me want to dig deeper every time someone is arrested for this type of crime. Just to make sure that leaders were taking action if they knew that a person was dangerous to kids and that hopefully the person wasn't just moved from place to place.

To this day, Tricia still fears retribution. She still has bad dreams. A lot of them. She says she'll never be able to full trust men. Still, she is attempting to move on with her life.

Going public on the evening news was a major step .. one aimed at putting a real name and face behind such an awful story.

"Kids can't be forgotten. And even though I'm 21, I'm still a kid. And I shouldn't be forgotten for what he did to me."

I thanked Tricia for trusting me with her story ... and for sharing so openly. I sense that she felt relieved that she'd finally conquered the last hurdle of this story -- going public. it's an interview I'll never forget.

Hopefully .. someone else whose buried their own abuse ... will see her story and then draw from Tricia's courage and come forward. If that happens, Tricia may never know that it was her risk on the evening news that paid off.

Still .. it was a step Tricia courageously took last night ... and for that, I hope she finally can sleep in peace.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the story young lady. When I was in 9th grade at Hyre Junior High I noticed that one of my teachers was "odd" with one of the girls there. It was only 15 to 20 years later that this same teacher went to jail for a relationship with a student there. I'll be praying for you and my hope is that this nightmare will come to an end soon.