We report on a lot of stories. Many are lighthearted simple events that don’t require much of us emotionally. Today, however, we have something very important to discuss with the Orcas Island High School student body and our community at large. As we’re sure many of you know, the recently hired science teacher Dr. Gerald Grellet-Tinner is currently under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct with a student. Because these accusations are still under investigation, we at The Viking Voice have no comment upon the specifics of the case. Handling a situation like this one is very difficult for most people, especially students. We do feel that there are far more important issues at hand with this case that must be addressed. Instead of focusing on the details of the alleged crime, we should focus on the best ways we can support the alleged victim at hand.
The question of “who was it?” was heard repeatedly in the Orcas High hallways following the information release on Dr. Grellet-Tinner’s arrest due to alleged sexual misconduct with a student. The answer: it simply doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because we as a community don’t need a name in order to show our support for this individual and other individuals in similar situations. In the past, the way our school and community have handled cases dealing with sexual misconduct or rape have been truly flawed. Victim-blaming and gossip have left a dark mark upon our community’s past. It is embarrassing as a student to belong to a community that values the titillating details of this story over the support of a minor that has been potentially taken advantage of. Please remember that cases like these are not entertainment, and should not be treated as such. They are not a joke, the latest gossip, or a mystery to guess at. This “hot topic” that has taken our town by storm has the potential to destroy the life of the student, Dr. Grellet-Tinner, and many others in proximity to the case. We cannot forget or afford that.
The alleged case for which Dr. Grellet-Tinner is accused is incredibly serious. In cases of student-teacher relationships, state legislature dictates that a student is still considered a minor until 21 years of age. Important to remember is that the power imbalance that comes from a student-teacher relationship, particularly one with such a large age gap, does not equate to consent. Cases of sexual misconduct are not examples of students making bad decisions, or acting as “seductive adults.” These cases are the result of the actions of the individual in a position of power. It is never the alleged victim’s fault, and that is what we as a community must keep in mind.
To make something clear, we understand it is important for our local media to report on these stories and keep the community informed, but please do not intrude on the privacy and safety of the alleged victim at hand. Consider yourself in this situation. If you were the subject of this story, how would you want community or news discussions on your situation focused? How would you want your community treating you in such a vulnerable time? How would you feel walking into the grocery store, or through the high school?
We at The Viking Voice stand with the victims involved in sexual assault cases. That is why we choose not to write an article highlighting specifics of this case, rather, discuss the importance of support and respect.
Note: Dr. Grellet-Tinner has not yet been proven guilty of this alleged crime, which is another reason not to let gossip or bias cloud the case before us or affect the way we treat the individuals affected.