Shoe Cam Shocker, Public Scrutiny, and Teacher Pay

Dallas Wilkinson—not the face of South Dakota teachers [screen cap from KDLT/YouTube/Soccer605TV]
Dallas Wilkinson—not the face of South Dakota teachers [screen cap from KDLT/YouTube/Soccer605TV]
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.

24 Responses to Shoe Cam Shocker, Public Scrutiny, and Teacher Pay

  1. Public scrutiny tends to be associated with public employment. When a city attorney is caught drinking and driving or when a police officer is involved in a traffic accident while on vacation it tends to get mentioned (both of these are examples in Sioux Falls). For whatever reason people feel if someone is collecting a salary from the taxpayer it gives them the right to peer a little deeper into their private lives. I won’t say that is fair, but it is the reality.

    That said, people put a certain amount of trust in anyone who is in a position to protect children. Whether it be a daycare provider, teacher, or part-time soccer coach – if they are found to have errors in judgment or engage in questionable behavior it tends to capture the attention of the public much more than if the same crimes or mistakes were made by the person responsible for picking up our trash or the guy managing the nearest convenience store.

  2. Jeff Barth

    As an elected official I am aware of the additional scrutiny associated with the job. Any crime involving a Public Citizen becomes a cause celeb. Being elected comes with a plethora of legal tripwires regular folk need not be concerned with.

    “What!? No disclaimer on that yard sign illegally posted in the highway median?”

    Persons involved in politics need to keep detailed financial records, file financial reports on a timely basis or face thousands in fines be concerned with who you associate with and use caution when circulating a petition…

    Yet I am just a guy; a sinner like you.

  3. Ch,

    The guys employer was ultimately going to get out before tomorrows paper hit our iPad. And, because it is a sex/privacy invasion crime, I think it was critical for everyone to learn two things right away:

    1) There is no evidence of any minor students being subject to his crimes (I haven’t read the article but that was my first question when told it tis morning in a meeting). Rightly, there is extra-ordinary concern with regard to sex crimes committed by adults in positions of power, influence, and supervision of minors. Whether one is employed by a church, school, volunteer coach or volunteer scout master, one is fore-warned public disclosure will be swift and immediate, for a lot of legitimate reasons including having other victims come forward and assessment of whether there are minor victims.

    2) He has been removed from his duties. As my church learned the hard way, treating a sex criminal like an alcoholic (send to treatment) is a fools game. The swiftness and sureness of the school’s response gives confidence to parents with regard to the priority being student safety.

    P.S. Except for the above, I don’t think this guy’s profession being teaching reflects on all the other good teachers in the district. I think your linkage of his crime to teacher pay was unwise.

  4. larry kurtz

    unless he was a priest, of course, then it would have been swept into the bishopric and under the vestment.

  5. We now have two anchor points from which to plot all the other teachers.

    Mr. Wilkinson Mr. O’Brien

    Now, all the administrators have to do is figure out how to plot all the other teachers on that line and we can start doling out raises!!

  6. Mr. Wilkinson ——————- average teacher —————— Mr. O’Brien

  7. hence the problem grudz-how to plot all the other teachers

  8. Roger Elgersma

    First they have to check those locker rooms where he worked for more hidden cameras.
    On the one hand to tie teacher pay for all the teachers to what is probably a very small minority of teachers seems apples to oranges. On the other hand, if we say everyone in South Dakota gets low pay so the teachers should too is wrong because those teachers are in charge of our kids and this example is very important since we can not be lowering our standards for teachers whether it is math test standards or moral standards since the teachers need to have higher integrity than most any job on the planet. When it is hard to get teachers you know they will necessarily hire some that would not be hired if we paid enough to get more applicants.

  9. Well, owen, that’s where the smart people like you and Mr. H come in, and the good teachers, and the good administrators out there. You come up with your way so the teachers won’t whine about it.

    let me start you out with some facts.

    We know there are bad teachers. We know there are very, very good teachers. The existence of very, very good teachers by itself allows us to infer that there are also very good teachers, who just are not quite very, very good. Then, of course, we have good. That leaves something between good and bad. A vast area perhaps accounting for the majority of teachers. In the middle of that group we’ll put average. Then, on either side of average we’ll put below average and above average. Let’s see:

    below average
    above average
    very good
    very, very good

    That’s 7 different levels that indisputably exist. One could argue there are an infinite number of spots between each of those but we only have so many teachers and sorting each and every one of them into their proper order seems silly so those 7 different levels would seem more than sufficient.

    Then, since we all know there are 7 levels and we can all tell which one a teacher we know a little bit about belongs into, we start sorting. That’s where the above average to very, very good teachers come in. They are more than smart enough to come up with a good way to sort themselves out.

    Then, we take the seven levels and we assign some sort of raise to it. Maybe it is a round dollar amount or maybe it is a percentage.

    bad get no raises, maybe get canned
    below average get no raises or very small ones to keep them trying
    average get decent raises
    above average get above decent raises
    good get better raises
    very good get even better raises
    very, very good get the best raises


  10. Troy, I’m trying to clearly not link his pay with his crime. I am linking the rightful heightened scrutiny of teachers and that heightened responsibility for protecting children to the justification for higher pay.

    Grudz, your usual caterwauling for merit pay does not link here. When we have a teacher who commits crime, we don’t jigger the pay school; we cut the guy loose and hire someone else we can trust with our kids.

    Your spectrum doesn’t make sense here, either. Placing Steve O’Brien at the extreme good end is correct, but how can anyone here tell where to place Wilkinson? I don’t want to get into defending Wilkinson for anything—he’s out of the classroom, and good riddance—but none of the information about his crime tells us anything about his performance on any of the classroom achievement criteria you would use to make your fantasy merit pay league. Merit pay, if we accept the odious concept, is about quantifying and distinguishing different levels of performance from the teachers who meet the basic requirements for being in the classroom, like not being arrested for moral turpitude.

    And even if we are going to play with merit pay, my contention is that the current pay isn’t high enough for anyone meeting the basic requirements of teaching, including bearing the heightened public scrutiny that the profession warrants.

  11. Interesting idea Grudz, but what criteria should be used for your list?

    “bad get no raises, maybe get canned
    below average get no raises or very small ones to keep them trying
    average get decent raises
    above average get above decent raises
    good get better raises
    very good get even better raises
    very, very good get the best raises”

    Teachers aren’t “whining” they just want to be compensated for what they do. Unless teaching our children or grandchildren isn’t important.

  12. Owen.


    The good teachers, like Mr. H who correctly identified Mr. O’Brien as a very, very good teacher, know how to do it. They just won’t speak up because the unions pressure them to be a socialist group where bad teachers get the same raises as good teachers. That is unacceptable to society so, well, no raises for any of them.

  13. Mr. H, you are right that we don’t have information about how good Mr. Wilkinson was in his classroom, shoes aside. But his behaviors led to him having to quit being a teacher or he would have been fired. Fired teachers can’t teach. So they are definitely NOT good teachers, right? You can be a bad teacher even if your kids get good test scores or you do a good job communicating lesson plans.

    You, yourself, have agreed that Mr. O’Brien is on the high end of the scale. By what criteria do YOU put him there? Then apply that criteria to others and how do you yardstick them up in your mind?

    See, you are already sorting teachers! We need more people like you to sort them into the 7 Indisputable Levels. I can help.

  14. SuperSweet

    The first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, said “education is the most important subject in which we can be engaged.”

  15. CH,

    Got your logic better now. That said, I just don’t think talking about the two issues together is good because your point is lost cause the crime stays top of mind.

  16. larry kurtz

    troy: Do you even realize you have become a single-dimensional caricature of a faux intellectual twit?

  17. Troy, yes, the point is difficult to get across amidst the top-of-mind awareness sown by mainstream media whose priority is keeping us all afraid with the creepy crime of the week, not inviting us to discussion of broader issues. Notice that the KELO story on the supreintendent’s response features commentary from a parent whose main purpose in the story is not to add any new, eyewitness details about the crime, the law, or school policy but apparently just to sound scared:

    KELOLAND News spoke with parents of Roosevelt students who wished to remain off camera. They say this news is very disturbing and hard to believe.

    Britt Roman says that as a parent, the news of a teacher allegedly doing this has him questioning how protected his kids might be.

    “You’re entrusting them. They’re spending more time with the teachers than they are with the parents, and that somebody in that position of trust would possibly be in a position to do that is disturbing. It’s appalling,” Roman said [Jared Ransom, “SF Superintendent Responds to Charges Against Former Teacher,”, 2015.07.13].

    Later Ransom includes a quote form the parent making some vague statement about trust, but the priority is to voice fear.

  18. 7 Indisputable Levels—there will always be dispute. I can find you some kids who think I’m awesome in the classroom and others who think I’m the worst thing since moldy black bread. I think O’Brien is awesome because he’s smart and intense; some may dislike him for exactly the same reason.

    We can keep quibbling over the categorization and ranking you so crave, or we can take care of the big problem, which is that no teacher in South Dakota is getting the pay he or she deserves for their difficult work and the professional, moral burdens they accept. Rather than taking scraps from Suzie’s plate and putting them on Johnny’s plate because you think he works harder, I want to try something new and give every teacher a square meal. (My principle does not preclude me from simply kicking bad eggs like Wilkinson away from the table.)

  19. larry kurtz

    Finally, in a nation of 300 million people, there are a very small percentage who say and think crazy things. Just as it would be crazy for me to think every teacher goes around with a camera on their shoe to look up women’s dresses in a grocery because one teacher did it, it is crazy for you to attribute every muttering by a crazy “conservative” to be the thought of every conservative.

    Prove it, Troy.

  20. mike from iowa

    Sounds pretty simple to me. Just arm all kids with shoe cameras and then they can stop the bad guys with shoe cameras,or become perverts themselves. Works with guns,domit?

  21. Bob Newland

    Grudznick is still a POS.

  22. Porter Lansing

    Mr Kurtz ….. I’ve read those endorsements of myself from Mr. Jones somewhere. lol Thank-you again, Mr. Jones for endorsing my dedication to crippling the crooked conservative spine that supports your political party.

  23. larry kurtz

    Mr. Lansing: Troy and his party of earth haters deserve all the scorn we can shove into their nether regions.

  24. barry freed

    Yes, it is the big, bad Unions.
    Now, name one Teacher’s Union in South Dakota