If you were a part of Hawthorn School in Marengo, Illinois during the years of the Eckmann trial, or have experienced psychological trauma, please be aware that viewing this site can be triggering of distressing emotions. Please don't view this site - or stop viewing it - if you find it distressing.
Shows open distressed book, filled with pivotal aspects of the case, headlines, etc.
The Locust thorns/Hawthorns were placed in the apples facing inward and outward. I picked some apples that looked realistic but also some which were obviously homemade 'craft' type items to represent the parents/teachers who tried their best to give us a good education. The thorns in them represent the damage to the trust & educational relationship between the teachers, staff, and students. Although my school was Hawthorn School, I liked the look of the Locust thorns - much larger, sturdier - so I used them. Artist license, taken. :>
The thorny branches were a way to express the feelings I still have of being in that school. Mostly, the feelings that bubble to the top when I am reminded of my junior high years is of feeling trapped.
"Like stalking victims, students who are the targets of teachers who bully feel trapped in a situation where the abuser is all-powerful. Sometimes they may be literally trapped in an environment (e.g., classroom or office) where offensive conduct is imposed upon them and there is no escape. More often, they feel situationally trapped and bereft of a way to mitigate this harmful situation. Any complaint about the abusive behavior places the student at risk of retaliation by the teacher, including the use of grades as a sanction. Equally important, it is the student not the teacher who suffers deprivations if he or she misses class, withdraws from a course, or has to avoid enrolling in certain classes because the teacher is a bully." Source: TEACHERS WHO BULLY STUDENTS: PATTERNS AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS.
My experience in that classroom - and the courtroom, and the associated interactions - just wasn't healthy, helpful or affirming. It fell far short of being 'supportive' 'validating' or 'happy memories.'
It harmed me. It harmed my family. We were not the only ones harmed. Many good, honorable people tried to fix this chaotic situation. To the extent that it helped me see that we were not alone in this, I wish to honor their efforts.
Once it entered the court system, it seems to have become a situation out of control....beyond any of the administration's - or court's - ability to halt or amend.
We all (Jeanne Eckman included) deserved to, and should have been protected from being placed in her care.
Despite her entering counseling, it would have been a good idea if, at the first parental/peer complaints, Jeanne Eckmann had been treated with compassion but with authoritative guidance. They could have appropriately referred to a qualified mental health professional for specific assessment OF POSSIBLE RISK/HARM TO THE CHILDREN ENTRUSTED IN HER CARE.
But, she wasn't. I'm not sure anyone would have known to do so. But I hope school districts do so now.
Although she did enter counseling on her own, apparently, for the rape, for which I'm glad she sought help.
It would have been far healthier for us if the school had thought to ask for a separate assessment of her risk to us. I don't know that they would have been able to, but if that were to happen today, I'd highly recommend a school district request such an assessment before putting a teacher back in charge of vulnerable children.
To a child trapped in an invalidating, painful, frightening classroom environment, no matter the cause, the intent of the policies which put us there are meaningless when the effects are traumatizing.
In the lower left corner is a portion of the news story reporting the teacher's brother's testimony - which rebuts her account. His was not the only evidence to do so.
Also included...her testimony re: 'shared a six-pack while driving...' with the 19-20 year old hitchhiker, something which I hope nobody would do now, because of the risks to others on the road. I don't know if drunk driving was illegal back then. It was definitely a different world back then.
I used to think to myself....if only our rural parents, teachers, administrators had the resources needed to truly make our school a good 'educational experience.'
Now that I'm a parent, I'm saddened to discover that some of our nation's schools are in WORSE shape than even back then.
At least at Hawthorn, we were put into a nice, 'state of the art' addition. How often do we see that?
Rural school districts are still lacking - more than ever - the resources necessary to prevent this situation from happening again. It takes public support and real money to employ and keep professionals who are well-educated, competent...and experienced enough to deal with personnel issues such as this.
I see no signs of wisdom from our school's devastation having filtered through into the way the public supports education.
Compassionate supportive school policy could have given support to us all then at a MUCH cheaper price than what this case, and the effects of the trauma - have cost us all. The money lost is the least amount of damage from this.
Sound hiring practices, effective, compassionate administration - especially documentation - and oversight would have protected us without any 'attacks' on 'Morality' necessary.
In a time when we hear so much about money...why have the lessons of this case NOT be applied to school policy? Why do schools have LESS support and resources than 20 years ago? Why are the ratios so high, the support for teachers so low? I have no answers.
I do know this. When there are fewer adults in the classroom, bullying thrives.
If that were to occur today....would an administration be empowered and have enough time, support to be able to refer Jeanne Eckman for help? Would she be given leave and the students protected while the teacher received healing for whatever traumas caused her to bully?
I don't think so.
It's too late for my school, though. It no longer exists.
It is my hope that schools could benefit from the lessons of this case from more than just what the headlines in the paper were. It would bring some meaning to this experience for me.