To be clear, taking pictures up women’s skirts with a secret shoe camera is sick and disrespectful. If Sioux Falls teacher and coach Dallas Rulon Wilkinson did that (and he says he did), the judge should throw the book at him.
With the obvious out of the way, let’s talk about a side aspect of the coverage of the peeping-Wilkinson story and how it relates to one of our favorite topics, teacher pay.
Apologists for South Dakota’s embarrassingly low teacher salaries sometimes argue that South Dakota pays everyone poorly, so why should teachers get a raise?
That “argument” has “Fallacy!” written all over it—if I tell you to stop beating your wife, you do not effectively refute my recommendation by saying you also beat your kids.
But suppose there were some logic in the “things are tough all over” response to calls to raise teacher pay. If teaching is just like other jobs, and if we can’t afford to pay full price for any job, then why should we single out teaching for a raise?
The media’s coverage of Wilkinson’s peeping perversion shows that teaching is not like other jobs.
When the Aberdeen American News reported that Bradley Quist was charged with manslaughter for killing Ronald Witchey, it did not mention Quist’s employer. KELO’s coverage of arrests in last month’s shooting in Sioux Falls doesn’t mention the suspects’ employment.
But catch a teacher committing a crime (by the way, good eye, Hy-Vee employee!), and his position at Roosevelt High School is part of the headline. The boss (who’s only been on the job for a couple weeks and thus may not even know the suspect) has to come out to the cameras and comment on the arrest. The arrest prompts mention of previous arrests of employees of the school district.
The shoe-cam story gets big headlines—and it should!—because it involves someone in a highly visible position of public trust. And in that regard, teaching is not like all the other underpaid jobs in South Dakota. People and the press are always watching teachers. If teachers screw up—or if someone accuses a teacher of screwing up—everyone will know about it, likely well before due process catches up to sort out what really happened.
By no means am I saying headlines like Wilkinson’s are unfair to teachers who commit crimes. Wilkinson is getting all the bad press he deserves. He’s out of the classroom and, if he’s guilty, should be.
I am saying that teaching is a different kind of job because of this necessary, heightened level of public scrutiny. The rest of us teachers must always be aware of public attention and the expectation that we model upstanding citizenship. Bearing that sort of attention by itself is one more reason that good South Dakota teachers deserve better pay than even the “tough all over” argument affords them. Things are tough all over, but they are tougher for teachers.