Monday, August 15, 2016

Local Y Had Wrong Initial Response to Problem

GOUVEIA: YMCA's response to recent controversy leaves something to be desired

Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2016 11:32 pm | Updated: 11:41 pm, Sun Aug 14, 2016.
We live in a litigious society. As a result, we all need to be careful when it comes to matters involving our legal system, either criminal or civil.
But whether we talk about individuals or institutions, the one thing we have to demand is accountability. This is especially true when dealing with those who teach, lead and care for our most precious treasures - our children.
Which brings us to the disturbing, disgusting and demoralizing situation involving 40-year-old North Attleboro resident Corey Ruel, the Attleboro YMCA, and a 13-year-old girl who may well have been robbed of her youth by a party or parties who were supposed to protect her.
Ruel was recently indicted on three counts of aggravated statutory rape of a child more than 10 years younger than him, according to court records. He allegedly admitted to engaging in an eight-month relationship with a 13-year-old girl he instructed as part of a martial arts class at the Attleboro YMCA. He allegedly had sex with the girl both in the YMCA facility and at his home.
Exactly what happened is a matter for the courts to sort out. Every individual is innocent until proven guilty, so Ruel is entitled to that presumption of innocence. As the truth emerges this promises to be a painful process for all parties - his alleged victim, his wife and children, and Ruel himself.
And also for the Attleboro YMCA, a respected institution in this city and this area. The Y has been a vital part of the lives of thousands of children for generations, offering a safe and affordable place for kids to play, grow and learn. It has a proud history.
But thus far in this sordid, awful affair, the Y itself has not behaved in a manner that befits its role in the community. While it must obviously be restrained given the legalities involved and the possible civil liability that could be attached, it has done itself no favors with its initial reaction to a horrible situation.
When Ruel was arrested and the charges became public, Y officials were no doubt shocked to discover what had allegedly occurred. They promised full cooperation with authorities, and expressed their sympathy and concern for the alleged victim.
But they also quickly said that while Ruel was a member of the Y, he was not a paid staff instructor. That statement upset many people for a very good reason: It is not entirely true.
While Ruel may not have been a YMCA staff member, and may not have been paid by that organization, he most definitely was an instructor. He absolutely led a class, sometimes as the only instructor for the entire class. He was left in charge of children, often as their main supervision.
I know this because my grandson was one of those children in his class.
YMCA officials point out it is normal practice for a "black belt" in martial arts to help teach as part of their achievement and status. That is no doubt true. But when an individual teaches a class by himself, regardless of whether or not he does so on behalf of others - he is an instructor. The "paid" part may or may not be significant in a legal sense, but it is totally irrelevant to the truth of the matter.
For some parents who had children come into close contact with Ruel in his role as an instructor, this comment by a Y official was disturbing and did not inspire confidence that the Y truly was placing the interests of the children before their own. It can easily be interpreted as merely "covering their butts" legally.
In fairness, it was made in the very early stages of these sad events. But it has not been clarified, and that is worrisome for several reasons. Not the least of those is that in order to prevent something like this from happening in the future, it is essential to understand and correct any mistakes of the past.
Those entrusted with children have heavy responsibilities, and their jobs are difficult. But what is needed now is truth, facts, and results - not knee-jerk excuses. Let's hope the Y understands and demonstrates this 

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