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Transparency only solves half of the problem

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This was some happy news to wake up to this morning: 55 Schools Face U.S. Federal Sex Assault Probe http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/55-schools-face-u-s-federal-sex-assault-probe-n94996 – and not surprisingly, Hawaii’s made it (yet again) onto another black list. To see the entire black list, click here: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-releases-list-higher-education-institutions-open-title-i

While I’m heartened by any effort to right wrongs, it’s not champagne time just yet because justice seems to lie at the end of a very long and uphill road, which really doesn’t make any sense when you think about it because isn’t justice a cherished virtue and the easiest of the four to do? (The other three classic virtues are courage, temperance and prudence, in case you were wondering.)

One of the bigger struggles I seem to be facing as I try to “gracefully age” is to resist swimming in the pool of pessimism that seems more and more inviting and appealing as time goes by and events unfold as they do. A few years back I’d be jumping like a cheerleader to learn of an investigation but now I know that an investigation is only a first step towards the end goal (justice) IF the end goal isn’t somehow abandoned along the way; transparency is great but if not followed up with corrective action, transparency will contribute to corruption instead of justice.

How many examples of this can you think of just off the top of your head? The Penn State scandal is one of the first that comes to mind for me and just look at the tragedy of that mess: corruption for years – destroying the childhoods and lives of how many? – all because corrective action didn’t take place when a graduate assistant reported that he witnessed an assistant coach raping a ten year-old boy in a locker room shower. Justice FINALLY the end result but not because of swift justice by leadership - which could have averted much harm and heartache if those involved in positions of authority had acted with integrity - but because an investigation led to transparency with hardworking third parties pursuing justice for the victimized.

I emphasized the last part of the above sentence because I want to call attention to how justice finally comes about when failed by integrity – see how those who’ve been victimized have nothing to do with it? See how justice is obtained by third parties actively pursuing it? Justice for domestic violence victim-survivors operates in the same manner: no justice without third party corrective action (and just look at how much third party corrective action there is going on and then everyone wonders why DV is such a huge problem in our islands).

What’s haunted me since I came upon it is the You Tube video attached to my “South Carolina DSS suffering the Hawaii DHS Koller virus” article where the DJ in the video talks about the cases who were failed under Koller’s watch there – just think about the alternative reality and consequences for the people of South Carolina had Hawaii stood on the side of justice and corrective action instead of aloha and maluhia…

Looking back to lament will serve no purpose though; only looking back to learn will and Boston’s DCF (Department of Children & Families, the equivalent of Hawaii’s DHS) seems to have taken a step in the corrective action direction this past week (well, sort of…) http://boston.cbslocal.com/2014/04/29/health-and-human-services-secretary-to-make-announcement-about-dcf/ Here’s what I see as the good, the bad and the bizarre:

  • The DCF Commissioner resigned a few days ago after the deaths of DCF-identified children from three different cases was revealed
  • The DCF Commissioner had tendered her resignation before these deaths but the governor refused to accept her resignations
  • The Massachusetts State Legislature (the administrative branch of government) has decided to assert more control over DCF (in the executive branch of government) in light of what’s gone on in their state
  • Seven months remaining under this governor or not, naming the chief of staff at the Registry of Motor Vehicles as interim DCF Commissioner is as brilliant as considering her as a candidate for the permanent position! But that’s what the governor did over there so good luck Boston…

What I really like about the Massachusetts State Leg overseeing their DCF is that they’re returning back to how the government was meant to be run, with the three branches of government holding each other accountable.

Somewhere along the way someone misinterpreted “separation of the powers” to mean “hands off” and “mind your own business” = a lack of transparency; turn a blind eye, fail or be unwilling to investigate and you have an environment ready for corruption – all that’s needed is one (or more) people without integrity in leadership positions and viola! A playground for the powerful to abuse, victimize, threaten and oppress while getting the secrecy, support and silence they need to thrive in. Care to guess who pays the price for all of it?

The biggest mistake a person can ever make is not learning from a mistake. Hawaii’s had plenty of mistakes – it’s time we learned from them – time to embrace integrity, support transparency, pursue justice, take corrective action and hold each other accountable to make our homes, campuses and communities the safe havens they were intended to be.

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