An alarming trend is emerging in Alabama and revealing the disturbing patterns with some of the state's school boards. Despite the rudimentary obligation these boards are responsible for upholding, protect the children first, they're emerging as the biggest clear and present danger to Alabama’s schoolchildren.
The case of Daniel Acker, Jr. an admitted serial molester & teacher from the Shelby County area of Alabaster, bears an eerie Sandusky-esque parallel with every revelation that's emerging in the explosive case. Like Sandusky, red flags flew up about Acker years before the real story blew up and charges ensued. No one did anything to stop either of these predatory men even though they knew something was very wrong. Those that could have stopped it, chose instead to ignore the truth - that monsters were in the making with Sandusky and Acker.
The end result is the entirely preventable ruination of dozens of children’s lives.
Forty-nine-year-old Daniel Acker, Jr. started with the Shelby County school system in 1985. He taught 4th grade children for 24 years, retiring in 2009. What transpired in those two decades can accurately be described as the end of innocence for his young victims.
Acker has recently admitted molesting 20-25 children, but the full tally of his victims may climb higher as new developments and additional victims emerge in the case.
The facade of years of denial (and culpability) that surrounded Acker until last week, was like some perverted cloak of protection. It finally fell last week when a girl, now 12, accused Acker of molesting her around 2009.
This child, and so many more, might not have been a victim if the same local school board had acted way back in 1992 when the first accuser against Acker came forward.
The local community and school board’s response to the testimony of Acker’s first known victim, an 11 year-old girl, described by people who knew her as “a beautiful child from a good family,” was to turn their backs on the child and rally around the predator.
School superintendent Norma Rogers, was the lone voice of ‘I believe you’ on that school board in the early 1990s. At the time, she recommended firing Acker from his position after “listening to the compelling testimony of the child and her mother.” Hiding behind the decision of a local grand jury, the Shelby County Board of Education (SCBOE), after a lengthy and heated behind closed doors meeting, refused to fire Acker citing a “lack of evidence."
After the accusation was made, an attorney currently representing one of Acker’s numerous victims, in addition to Ms. Rogers, claim that a test paper was sent home with the girl that had a note written on it “referencing the child’s underclothing.” Another source gives a slightly different account and states that Acker had placed actual test questions “about the color of the victim’s underwear" on the exam.
The school board and the grand jury both saw that paper and what Acker had written.
Two of the school board members who “protected Acker” are still on the board today - Lee Doebler (Pres.) and Steve Martin (VP). Martin’s statement on the 1992 accusation:
“We had no legal authority back then than to terminate or not terminate, and there wasn’t enough physical evidence to the best of my recollection.”According to the most recent story in the case, published today in the Birmingham News, the child’s family was forced to “move out of the county” after being ostracized and derided by the Acker family, their church and most of the local community, who were staunch defenders of “the good name of the Acker family.”
Daniel Acker, Sr. is a powerful man who has been on the Shelby County Commission for years. The Alabaster Police Department claims that "Acker’s position did not help his son evade accountability," but anyone who lives in Shelby County is well aware of the overbearing power and nepotism that exists within the Shelby County Commission.
If there’s one county in Alabama that wields the biggest influence statewide it’s the power structure in Columbiana, Alabama. ALEC’s state chairman even hails from the county – Representative Mary Sue McClurkin. The power brokers believe they are untouchable and they walk around with a self-assured strut of arrogance that's hard to miss.
Has the county gone too far this time? We hope so.
The ‘monster of Alabaster’ and his evil deeds may prove to be the veil lifter of many wide-open, but hidden in plain sight secrets that define the county's modus operendi.
A source in the community, who lived in Alabaster when the first accusation came out, tells us that the local church put the following bible verse on their outside sign as a warning to the girl’s family:
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.”That church went on to hold a fundraiser for the Acker family anticipating legal costs if the grand jury voted to indict Acker, Jr. Our source also tells us that allegedly a full court press by Acker’s father shut down the investigation as soon as it started.
Acker, Sr. was serving as an Alabaster City Council member at the time of the first accusation, and he had his sights set on a future county commission seat in 1992. We imagine, in his mind, a child molesting son would have been a huge impediment to any future political plans, and the reality of what his son was had to remain hidden.
Not much of notoriety goes on in Shelby County that someone doesn’t know about on some level -children talk, colleagues talk. Parents have been whispering about Acker for years. Why wouldn’t the adults, who could have stopped Acker, ever admit to themselves ‘he’s spending a lot of time with those young girls and it’s not in a professional sense?’
Acker still stubbornly stands by his son today, refuses to resign and continues to claim he “didn’t know” about his son's decades-long twisted proclivities. Their local church is trying in vain to stem the rising tide of public rage by publicly expressing “regret for our actions back then.”
No one’s buying the litany of excuses pouring out of the enabler’s mouths today. What people see is a “Penn State south’ in the making, and just like in the Sandusky case, the groundswell of righteous anger is rapidly spreading outside of the county.
In our opinions, everyone involved with the cover up of these horrible crimes is equally complicit should be held harshly accountable. Some of those same individuals are adding insult to grievous injury by refusing questions and actively participating in a second cover up of trying to make the whole ordeal go away.
These ‘officials who wouldn’t’ continue to cling to their perceived entitlement to remain employed in profitable power positions on the county commission and school board.
Shelby County Schools creed is "where the learning never ends." We suggest a quick re-write to go along with a couple of resignations on the school board.
The inability of Alabama school boards to act when they are aware of a predator in their midst isn't confined to Shelby County - there's similar scenario going on right now in Tuscaloosa, Alabama:
TUSCALOOSA COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) - In a civil suit filed in federal court, a West Alabama administrator has been accused of sexual misconduct with a former female student. The student's attorney, Paul Patterson, says the woman was a sophomore at Tuscaloosa County High School when the inappropriate behavior began. He says the behavior continued and intensified throughout the remainder of the girl's high school career. The suit also names several Tuscaloosa County Schools employees, including the Board of Education, for failing to take action after the student allegedly approached the school's principals to complain.Abuse of children can take other forms besides sexual. There are thousands of Alabama schoolchildren live with another known well-known threat every day – toxic exposure.
In a previous article, we detailed who knew what and when they knew it about the Walter Energy contamination in Jefferson County. Minority children in the north Birmingham area of Collegeville have been suffering for years from the inaction of their school board, the county, the state and Region 4 EPA to protect them from the dangerous by-products of big business in their classrooms and on their playgrounds.
The “Deadly Deception” in north Birmingham might not grab the salacious headlines that the Sandusky and Acker’s of the world get, but the parents of children who get sick with cancers are no less horrified by the suffering of their own children. Especially when they realize people knew and did nothing about it until years later.
The pervasive theme that runs through all of these stories is the glaring inability by local school boards, and authoritative officials to adequately protect the children under their purview from clear and present dangers. One incident of failure to act might be chalked up to a tragic oversight – two may show a blatant disregard for a basic duty to adequately protect children from any form of abuse.
More than that indicates there’s a deeper, more widespread systemic problem going on in the state. A sinister pattern of serial abuse indicating the wanton willingness of Alabama to leave its children behind, and go down the road of ‘no child left unharmed’ in pursuit of elected power, profit and public perceptions.
*Update - Doebler and Martin are facing challengers for their seats! Acker, Sr. will remain unopposed.
Photo credit child:: Daly
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