Friday, May 17, 2013

An open letter to Glee's Mr. Schuster

The following contains spoilers about the TV show "Glee." I was inspired to write this post after seeing the episode "Lights Out." 

Dear Mr. Schu:

It started out so nice – the teacher that uses his talents to reach out to the children of his school who may be struggling. You were a builder! You put these kids together into a family. You gave them a home at school.

But there were troubling things, too. Maybe the fact that you were a Spanish teacher but you didn’t know Spanish? Maybe the fact that you just simply transitioned into teaching history because, well, you liked it (although there was no evidence whether you were QUALIFIED to teach it).

It’s definitely troubling that your high school students are you only friends. 

I can forgive and forget some of these things. I hate the way your incompetence as a teacher made other teachers look. I hate the way you just waltzed into a completely different subject area disrespects the teachers around the nation who work very hard to be qualified and to prepare themselves. I won’t even mention how disrespectful a bad teacher is of his students.


There was an incident, Mr. Schu. And our shaky relationship might have to end over it.

One of your students, a male, shared with your group that he had been molested by an older teenaged 
girl when he was a youngster.

Look at that, Mr. Schu. You have engendered trust to your students. They can say these things in your presence. That’s good.

But what did you do?

First, without responding with any sympathy, empathy, or love, you blurted out, “I have to report this.”

Yes. You do have to report it. You’re correct. And maybe it was important to get that out in the open before he continued in case he wanted to censor himself in the light of that admission.

But, well, that’s basically all we got from you.

Immediately the other boys started giving your student the predictable, culturally appropriate (AND WRONG) responses — asking him why getting molested (at 11 years old!) by an older girl is anything but awesome, telling him that he’s the man, etc.



This, Mr. Schu, was more important than a teaching moment, although the opportunity to correct the way these boys viewed molestation was there. It was (and is) necessary to address.

You left your student, already vulnerable, floundering. You left him there as his friends dismissed his pain. You said nothing to alleviate that — at the very least you could have stopped the other boys from saying these things in your presence. For a teacher who prides himself on addressing bullying, who gathers together groups of students some would consider marginalized, you were silent. At one of the most dire, important, and necessary moments for you to speak, you were silent.

Your student left the room saying fine, he agreed, the other boys were right, he was the man. He didn’t mean a word of that, you know. He may never speak up again to you. He wasn’t even allowed to claim his own experience, call it what it was.

The other boys left the room with their assumptions affirmed — that of course being sexually involved with an older woman is awesome, even if it was forced, even if it was illegal. That young men can’t possibly be victims in this situation.

Your millions of television viewers left the room. Maybe some didn’t see any problem. Maybe most were so shocked by Ryder’s story that they didn’t notice your silence. Maybe some rolled their eyes at his story because they have the same beliefs your other male students have.

This viewer left irate.

Ryder’s story wasn’t shocking. Abuse happens — statistics say 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused by age 18 and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by age 18.

But you had an opportunity to educate. And you squandered it.

And your silence affirmed the stigma.

And I hope that some child watching doesn’t stay silent because they saw that even the most empathetic teacher on TV didn’t believe that this abuse was a problem. 


For the national sexual abuse hotline, please visit: or call 1-800-656-HOPE.

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