Editorial: Never again
Renee Campbell, publisher
Clay Thorp, reporter
Pete Pleasant, community representative
Desiree Moore, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at editor@CraigDailyPress.com.
When Moffat County School District teacher Justin Folley was acquitted in December on 10 counts of felony exploitation of a child, it marked a real low point for the justice system in Moffat County and the State of Colorado.
By all measures, Folley would have been convicted in almost any other U.S. state.
But not Colorado.
Not until Monday when it finally became illegal for adults to send sexually explicit text messages to minors. It’s troubling to think of all those who were victimized over the decades by such a gap in our state law, but no longer.
Could the law have gone further? Perhaps. Legislators told the Craig Press the law had to be rewritten several times before it passed, so the political winds might not have made continued additions or revisions easy.
Legislators could have written the legislation to target teachers specifically. We see them in the news all the time — inappropriate student-teacher relationships where teachers of all ages and genders allow themselves to prey on those who aren’t mature enough to provide consent. Some states have such laws and they include the bureaucratic and legislative tools to enforce the automatic removal of a teacher’s teaching license in that state if they are convicted of an inappropriate student-teacher relationship.
Some states take a broader outlook and have laws specifically written to keep adults in positions of trust from abusing children in their care. This would apply to pastors, coaches, and teachers like Folley.
Rep. Dylan Roberts (D-Steamboat Springs), Rep. Matt Soper (R-Delta) and Sen. Rachel Zenzinger (D-Arvada), Sen. Bob Rankin (R-Carbondale), Joyce Rankin and Superintendent Dave Ulrich all deserve credit for making sure Colorado’s law passed Monday was broad enough to cover abusers from all walks of life, not just teachers like Folley.
Folley was in a position of trust. The Craig and Moffat County community trusted him to educate and make better Americans out of our children. With that trust comes real power — the power to obfuscate and hide the truth until the jig is up. That trust can be used to discredit victims and proclaim innocence, though there is none.
Any person in a position of trust who violates that trust by sending sexually explicit text messages to minors in their care deserves the label of ‘felon.’
And though this community suffered a blow to its system of justice with Folley’s acquittal, our community and its elected leaders got up, brushed themselves off, and worked until the law was changed to protect our kids from those who would prey on them.
It took less than a year for a process that could have taken many years. For that, we thank all those involved in changing the law to protect not just our kids here in Moffat County, but across the entire state of Colorado.
Editor’s note: Desiree Moore and Renee Campbell were unable to attend this week’s editorial board meeting.