All of the power and none of the responsibility: Why Richard Porter is unfit to join the Vallejo School Board


By Chloe Hollingsworth

When I attended North Hills “Christian” School, I was, by all accounts, a very strange child. Like many children – though this was never acknowledged – I had imaginary friends; I generally preferred the company of books to that of my peers; I had a sense of humor that others didn’t understand, or said was too “mature” for a kid of my age. At any given time, I could count the number of people at that school I called friends on one hand. The rest of my peers, and even some of the teachers, bullied me relentlessly, day in and day out, and this went on from the time I started preschool there to the time I finally escaped at the end of eighth grade; in light of this, and of the turmoil that characterized my home life, it’s no small wonder that I felt the need to keep largely to myself, to try to keep myself safe as best I could. The imaginary friends of my preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school years treated me better than almost anyone at school did. Middle school was even worse, and no one seemed to question whether my deep depression, hardcore goth phase, and plummeting grades were caused by the bullying I endured, by the fact that I was harangued about everything from my dark and curly hair to my sizeable vocabulary, by being called “witch, “vampire”, “demon”, “she-devil”, “monster”, “freak”, and so on every single day I went to school for as long as I could remember, rather than the other way around. It got exponentially worse when I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder – wrongly, as it turned out, because apparently ADD, the onset of puberty, and a life chock-full of chaos look exactly like bipolar disorder to a psychiatrist who either doesn’t know what she’s doing, has a quota of prescriptions to fill, or both – because then they started calling me “crazy” and “psycho” and trying to trigger an “episode” in addition to everything else. I was bullied for sleeping in class, too, but sleeping in class was little more than a desperate attempt to escape my surroundings. Had it not been for the aforementioned handful of friends I had, I very well might have ended up on the national news for committing suicide, a sort of proto-Phoebe Prince.

Many times, I was either sent to Richard Porter’s office for having reacted badly to the ceaseless bullying, or I went up there myself to plead with him to make it stop. Each time, he made it very clear that he thought I was wasting his time. He told me I needed to “grow a thicker skin”. He often insinuated and sometimes said outright that it was my fault the kids (and some of the teachers, too) were bullying me, which is called “blaming the victim” in common parlance: they did it because I reacted, he said (never mind that I had already tried ignoring them, and all it did was make them try harder to get me to react, because it was like a game to them); because I wasn’t trying hard enough to be “normal”; because “kids will be kids”. He once tried telling me that Michael Jackson was bullied because of his high voice, and he went on to be a superstar, so all I had to do was persevere and I’d be just fine. It took all my willpower not to laugh in his face, knowing that Michael Jackson was an international superstar at the age of five, when all children have high voices, and the only person who could have been conceived of as bullying him was his father. Nevertheless, the parallel he accidentally drew between school bullying and domestic abuse was more accurate than he seemed to ever realize: both experiences scar the soul for the rest of one’s life.

In the seventh grade, I was sexually harassed by a group of four boys. It happened in Bible class – the very height of irony – and the teacher of that class watched it all from less than five feet away and did nothing, even when I begged him to make them leave me alone. After that class let out, those boys went on to our next class, P.E., loudly boasting about how they had humiliated me with descriptions of me and their ringleader engaging in degrading sexual acts and gotten away with it. I raced up to Porter’s office in tears and all but demanded that something be done. His response was to half-heartedly promise to deal with the situation and tell my parents to keep me at home the next day so I could “recover” – using that exact word, in the same manner you would when a kid has a bad cold. I went home that day with the distinct sense that he hoped I would get over it soon enough, just like every other time I went in and out of his office, for any reason.

The next day, as my friends told me when I returned, Porter went around to each class and explained to the students why they shouldn’t sexually harass students. According to every report I heard, he made no mention of the fact that it wasn’t what Jesus would do, but he made every mention of the fact that the school might get sued. Now, schools typically don’t get sued by the parents of victims of sexual harassment unless the administrators actively avoid rectifying the situation. Porter’s concern for the school’s finances, and not victimized students such as myself, made it clear to me that he was either too lazy or thought it too beneath him to actually deal with such a problem, or indeed any problem of harassment or bullying; his preferred method was to sweep it under the rug as soon as possible and pretend it never happened. (Of course, part of the problem in his mind might have been the fact that I was a girl. After all, it was well-noted that when students were caught engaging in sexual activity on campus – a blowjob in the parking lot, heavy petting in a janitor’s closet, whatever the case might have been – the boys involved might have gotten suspended, but the girls got expelled.)

I am far from the only former student of what I refer to these days as North Hell who was treated callously by Porter. I don’t have to think very hard to come up with a list of fellow North Hell survivors who have similar stories of him treating them as if the awful things they endured there didn’t matter, and in many cases, even forcing them to stay in those highly unsafe situations. Unlike me, some of them did attempt suicide as a result. To this day, I’m not sure why I never attempted it myself; I certainly thought about it several times a week, one of the myriad ways I fantasized about escaping North Hell.

When faced with an instance of bullying, Porter often liked to claim that there was nothing he could do to stop it. Meanwhile, in my freshman year at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School, the bullying started up again there. It was quiet, most of it done on a now-defunct Internet forum and in whispers behind my back just close enough for me to hear, but I’d had enough for one lifetime already. I went to the then-dean of SPSV and explained the situation to him. His response was to promptly call in every student we knew had been doing it and tell them to either knock it off or get suspended – and if it happened again after that, expelled. If anyone ever said cruel things about me from that moment until the end of high school, I never heard a word of it. The same school that many teachers and administrators at North Hell loved to say was full of “false” Christians who were “idolatrous” and “no better than pagans” demonstrated more Christ-like love and compassion toward me than the so-called “Christian” “Family of Love” on Admiral Callaghan Lane ever did. Perhaps Dr. Porter should consider taking a few lessons from my former dean about how to handle cases of bullying before attempting to get elected to a school board.

Compassion for children, even “the least of these”, should be a prerequisite for being involved in their education in any capacity. Richard Porter has demonstrated time and time again that he does not possess this quality. Why, then, should he be given even more power over the children of Vallejo than he had before?

 

 

 Note: All opinions expressed in the “Primal Scream” column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.



'All of the power and none of the responsibility: Why Richard Porter is unfit to join the Vallejo School Board' have 11 comments

  1. August 16, 2014 @ 4:01 pm School Bored

    I guess we don’t have to worry about Dr. Richard Porter getting a seat on the school board since Dr. Ramona Bishop has given him a job in the school district and he’s abandoning his plans to run.

    Reply

    • August 16, 2014 @ 8:20 pm No on E

      Seeeeee. Why should we pay taxes to this corrupt dynasty of homphobia?? No, no no on Measure E.

      Reply

    • August 17, 2014 @ 7:33 am anon

      Doesn’t the District do a background check when they hire new people? Geesh. No wonder we have so many problems in our schools.

      I think Wharf Rat is right — the hiring might well be to get Porter off the ballot.

      Reply

  2. August 16, 2014 @ 4:14 pm wharf rat

    i presume he registered as an offficil candidate , if so there are some smelly politics going on here , wonder who bishops choises for school board are , is she interfeering with the electoral process … hiring policies need some real sunshine , perhaps he belonged to the right sorority …if they think they can blow off the grand jury , mabey the doj needs to come on board …

    Reply

  3. August 17, 2014 @ 8:13 am Vallejo MOM

    Any proof that he was hired by Bishop? And if you know that he was he hired, form which source have you heard it from? I am mortified that he allowed a young student to be sexually assaulted. He should be behind bars for that, no?

    Reply

    • Monica

      August 17, 2014 @ 7:31 pm Monica

      NO! He was a private Christian school administrator.

      Reply

      • August 17, 2014 @ 7:35 pm Vallejo Mom

        I was asking in reply to “School Bored”‘s post above. He/she stated that Bishop had already offered him a job. Wanted some proof on that.

        Reply

        • August 17, 2014 @ 9:19 pm wharf rat

          yes we need to know , justvwhat the , real consideration is … is it a statuus quo or is it a real deal …. the ongoing , refrences to franternmal orginisasitions , just reeksof cronoysim …. has our school system been highjacked by prostilitiisers , or is it just a commodity ,, the largest employer in vallejo ,, must have a connection to quality governnance ,,, aswell as a modicum of transparency …. having major keyboard problems … pardon the mix ,,up ….
          this major recipeint of tax –payer funds needs to get with the program ,, and in fact needs to present us tax–payers with a program ,, you are not roality ,, and need to justify your existence ….. just what is your program ,, please publish something ,, so we can decide to go with you or ,, choose a different approach
          such as many disterects have done ,, many who have eliminated the duplicity
          and ,, just plain waste ,, thas saps money from our classrooms … county education models ,, work very well ,,, while city models are rife with waste and
          corruption ,, not to mention phd duplicity and sorrority ,,, corruption ,, that doe’s not serve our student body … our kids and their resultant education is what this district exist’s for ,,, not what management has determined to be their goals ….. a wholesale overhaul is the only answer … the kids need to be forefront ,, not the ,, entrenched cabal of users ,, and ,, manipulators ,, who
          do nothing for our kids yet are happy so suck funds from an education system
          that has suffered from a chain of grifters for years … VCUSD FOR THOSE THAT
          IT IS PROFfESED TO SERVE ..The students .. remember them … ADMINISTRATION , School BOARD , Teachers , Staff , Classified ,, all work for our students ,, period … Perhaps a major overhaul , and a new mission needs to be charted …. We have the resources , yet canot seem to dirrect them where they are most effictive …Our School system was once the largest employer post Mare Island closure … Considering this , one would think that the CEO would be up for the task ……. Yet the School Board has the say … perhaps this is a flawed formula … How can a few Board members have the wisdom to ,, oversee the single largest Employee group in our entire city … E secially when they are largely controlled by a Career Beaurocrat , who is totally controll oriented ,, and realy needs to move on .. We can hire a real ringer We have the budjet ,,, do We have the will ,, afterall this is the bay area ,, why do We have to settle for
          this corrupt crap …. Tallent is out there , and it must be sellected ,, not by a dissfunctional Shool board ,,,,’ this is not the whole lot’ but by a selective process that puts our Students first ,, period ….

          Reply

          • August 18, 2014 @ 7:31 am Bong Hit

            The problem is far, far bigger than our little town. We don’t need the overhead expense of the Federal Dept. of Education, it’s an unnecessary cost. Every small town in America has good, smart, well educated teachers and career admin staff that should be allocating the education dollars where the local community needs them most. You all know this is true, the democrats have turned into the party of oppression now. Big government jobs and political payola in education and the children get the shaft.

        • August 19, 2014 @ 5:52 am School Bored

          Go ask him. He’s the source saying he was hired by the District. Maybe he’s lying, maybe not. I tend to think he has little to gain by saying he was hired if he wasn’t. I seems in keeping with S.O.P around that place.
          I believe it.

          Reply

          • August 21, 2014 @ 8:40 am GW

            I do not know anything about this man (nor both letter writers) and would like to have more information about him, running for dogcatcher or anything else, his leadership abilities he believes should make him a guaranteed shoe-in for the position and his alleged attempt to receive the support of the voters because of all the before mentioned attributes he would bring to the VCUSD Board!
            Reading both letters that describe in detail how an educator thought he was above it all and seemingly got away with it, possibly do it over and over to others who have not brought it into the public light, tells me that something does not add up. My question is, how an individual such as this leader of a reputable school can get away with this type of behavior?

            Where were the parents of these two then children who may or may not have brought this abuse to them after they experienced it, allegedly for years? After all this school being a private one, was charging tuition that was paid without question and doubt that their children were treated with respect. How sensitive were the parents to the well being of their children and did they not even sense that something was not right about their child.

            Of interest would be how the Board of this school could not have been aware of his sadistic style of intimidation towards certain pupils, if true. Was it his style in general or did he seek out certain individuals who were an easy target?

            Despite it all these allegations coming to light at a time when an allegedly capable and respected individual of the community is seeking a position that would give him the ability to improve our dysfunctional school system and put his touch on it is somehow suspect to me. Why now? If all allegations of misconduct are indeed true , why was it not addressed at the time it happened and brought to the attention of the authorities that no doubt would have removed him from his position, private school or public.

            If it did not happen as described, I would hope the accused would set the record straight.
            Ignoring the issue all together does not bode well for him though, even if he were removing himself as a candidate. The allegations brought forward have to be investigated, I would want that as a parent who paid for an education I thought was superior to the public system we have in this town.


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