April 20th, 2010

Remembering Brian Betts: A Bold School Leader

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Brian Betts was considered a rising star among Washington, DC’s principals.  On April 15, he was discovered fatally shot at his home in Silver Spring, MD.

This 2008 interview with Brian Betts captures his essence.  Other educators can learn a lot about leadership from this interview, while parents and others will get a pretty good idea of what to look for in an instructional leader.

On one level, it may be difficult to watch, knowing that Brian is gone. On another deeper level, however, this interview keeps his spirit alive.

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I think this is an exceptional tribute to Brian. I am also affiliated with two major universities who have decided to pick this video up as part of their coursework in training teachers to become principals. The issues brought up cover several issues necessary to make an excellent principal. Well done.

This is the perfect summary of Brian’s educational vision and what should become his legacy. What a tragedy to steal him from his existing students who knew and loved him so, but even more so for the thousands that never will get to know or meet him. Rest in peace, Brian.

Having worked as a Consultation and Education Supervisor in Philadelphia Public Schools for years, I can honestly say That Mr. Betts is among the most committed and inspirational principals I have known. He led by example and used innovative strategies to engage and reward students. As suggested in the video, he envisioned Shaw becoming a magnet school in five years. I bemoan the fact that the manifestation of his vision has been interrupted by this senseless tragedy.

I offer my heart-felt condolence to his family and his friends. My grief is heightened by the loss of my own brother, Kevin, in March of 2009. Take comfort in the fact that his is resting from all labor. Brian, you DID help make the world a better place.

Dr.Barbara Cooke-James

After a thoughtful review of the circumstance surrounding Mr. Betts’ death I could only come to one conclusion. His personal integrity was simply not aligned with the image that is presented in this video.

The published police reports state that Mr. Betts was allegedly killed by three teenagers from D.C., one of whom he met on a telephone sex chat line and subsequently invited to his home for illicit sex.

Are these the characteristics that we applaude in someone who is sworn to uphold the public trust. Is this the type of person you would entrust your children to.

One can not separate his personal from his professional life when in involves the welfare of children. The teenager that Mr. Betts invited for sex would have to have been a current or a recent enrollee in the very system that Mr. Betts worked in. Don’t any of you highly educated people find any discordance or incongruency with this fact.

If you were on the search committee for a principal in your local school and the candidate revealed that he trolled sex lines to find teenagers to have sex with, would you hire him. Probably not. If he concealed his tendancies and you hired him but later found out through his untimely death that he was actually a pedophile who sought out sex with teenagers would you continue to praise him as a hero?

As a parent and a teacher in the D.C. Public School system I am outraged at the praise that is being showered on this man whose own actions led to his demise and revealed him to be a pedophile.

It is time to acknowledge the truth that lies before us and discontinue the whitewashing of this situation.

Mr. Betts presentation is very impressive. It’s also clear that he was a comitted professional educator. What is disturbing about Mr. Betts is that in retrospect, he fits the classic profile of a pedophile. He leaves a very comfortable job and community to move into a “disadvantaged” neighborhood and takes a job in that neighborhood’s middle school where he has available to him a ready supply of young boys that do not have adquate parental supervision. For a smart, well educated man like Mr. Betts, his move from Montgomery County to the innercity was probably not exactly altruistic. It also would not surprise me if it was revealed that he had some “history” in MC that may have forced him to leave that school district. He even mentions in the interview how bored he was when he was taken out of the classroom and put in an administrative position.

I believe the posters Arthur Trammell and Marva Berry have mistaken Brian Betts for someone else. Mr Betts was a gifted individual who strove for involvment in life. He also had a personal life that was his life as you have yours. His personal life shouldn’t be used in this forum but as you have commented with your thoughts, I will as well.

Everyone mistrusts at least once. This is what we try to teach students to not do and to not foster mistrust by lying.

Mr Betts for a moment gave his trust to someone who took advantage of it. You two have choosen to sow it.

When can you fine people say you have not met someone that lied to you and got away in front of you?

To use Brian Bett’s choice of affection as a means to discredit him is in itself an example of one of the oldest ideas taught.

Prejudice. Shame on you both.

Jay, I would have appreciated a dedicated teacher like Mr. Betts when I was in middle school. There is no prejudice in any of my suggestions about him. The police report of his death indicated that he solicited sex over the phone with a teenage male. It is a real stretch for you to suggest that it was a one time “for a moment” act on his part. Even if it was, Mr. Betts was likely murdered while engaging in an illegal criminal act. The only prejudice here is your attempt to dismiss the possible criminal behaivor that ultimately cost him his life.

Mr. Saxon,

While it is true that we all have personal lives and everyone needs private and personal time to relax and relieve stress, most emotionally healthy adults choose to share these and more intimate pastimes with other adults. Most emotionally healthy adults also spend recreational time with children in a wholesome and protective manner that does not include the illegal crossing of sexual boundaries.

Mr. Betts had illegal sexual involvement with youth of this city. How many, we may never know because he is now deceased.

The legal action that is required at this time is a thorough investigation by Child Protective Services and the Metropolitan Police Department to determine the extent to which children under his direct supervision might also have been victims of pedophilia and to provided them with the necessary support.

Michelle Rhee, as the chief executive officer of D.C. Public Schools, is legally required to initiate such an investigation by reporting the event to the appropriate authorities. However, her negligence in this responsibility is due to the fact that she has been more engaged in paying tribute to the lie that she herself must uphold for recruiting, hiring and promoting Mr. Betts’ false image.

Finally, Mr. Saxon, the person responsible for the ultimate betrayal of trust was non other than Mr. Betts himself. The citizens of the District of Columbia entrusted him with their youth to educate, guide and protect not to prey on.

Given the significant publicity that Mr. Bett’s death has received in the media, I believe that if there had been anything of an inapropriate nature between Mr. Betts and any of his students, it would have been made public as soon as the circumstances of his murder were made public. To call for “legal action” at this time seems ridiculous, and makes me wonder what kind of axe Ms. Berry has to grind. As a parent of 2 children who were blessed enough to have been nurtured by Mr. Betts, I am horribly offended by Ms. Berry’s vitriolic comments.

I find the comments about Mr. Bett’s death very disturbing. All of these “teenagers” were of legal age. There is no proof he abused or ever would have abused his students. There is no proof that the “teenagers” did not lie about their age on the sex chat line. Maybe he thought 1 guy, age 24 was coming over. WE DON’T KNOW. Mr Betts did NOTHING illegal. NOTHING immoral. Stop judging someone’s personal sexual life. It is very disrespectful of a great educator to make accusations of pedophilia. All 4 of the accused have been found guilty, and are going away for a long time. Mr. Betts was the victim. His sexual orientation was Irrelevant. OH MY GOD PEOPLE, he was not soliciting children for sex! CHILDREN DON’T USE SEX CHAT LINES.

As we approach the anniversary of Mr. Betts’ transition, I returned here seeking to celebrate the life of this gifted but imperfect, HUMAN being. As a former child protective social worker for the City of Philadelphia and a former psychotherapist for traumatized children and youth at Women Organized Against Rape, I remain committed to the prevention and healing of all forms of child exploitation. However, having read the above accusations, I stand steadfast in the knowledge that all allegations of abuse must be FOUNDED IN FACTS. I concur with Mr. Lehman that the presumption that the perpetrator represented himself to Mr. Betts as an adolescent is just that, a presumption. However, I disagree with Mr. Lehman’s assertion that “Children(in this case, adolescents) don’t use sex chat lines”. Nothing is further from the truth but, in any case, it is the adult who are legally and morally responsible for sexual activity with minors.

Love Is Light

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