Despite thoughts to the contrary, school officials are under intense scrutiny to be better than the examples many kids have surrounding them. These pillars of the community are expected to be role models for the youngsters to emulate, and their moral fiber needs to be beyond reproach. Apparently, a teacher in Charleston, West Virginia did not get that memo.
Hunting on a website called “Skip the Games,” 44-year-old Robert Pennington reached out to a detective who had placed an ad on the site for some company. Clearly an ad for prostitution, the detective posted a cell phone number, and around 6:30 that evening, Pennington made contact with the detective. Like a dog with a bone, the teacher excitedly made plans to meet up on Kanawha Boulevard East.
According to the report filed by the police, officers noted Pennington was in a “very impaired state.” Upon contact with officers, he was quick to admit to his “heavy cocaine usage.” While with the officers, he admitted to his attempts to solicit a prostitute, and, in turn, was issued a summons and released from the scene.
On March 17th, Director of Marketing and Communications, Tim Bishop issued a statement on behalf of Charleston Catholic High School concerning the incident.
“We have learned of civil charges against Robert Pennington. As such, Mr. Pennington has been suspended from his duties at Charleston Catholic High School and Blessed Sacrament Church pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation related to adult behavior by civil authorities. As it is ongoing, neither Charleston Catholic High School nor the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston can make further comment on the investigation.” Bishop also clarified that should anyone have questions they would need to speak with the city of Charleston.
As someone who is supposed to guide these young people through the troubled waters of being a teenager, Pennington is expected to be held to the highest of standards. At a Catholic High School, this takes on an even bigger meaning.
To the young women in his care, he is to be seen almost as a fatherly figure and someone these ladies should be able to find solace and comfort in knowing. He should represent the type of man these ladies hope to one day take as a husband, and father to their kids. When they are having problems at home, these teachers should help smooth the waters and ensure the rule of their parents is upheld fairly.
For the young men in his care, his fatherly figure is to be complimentary of the one the boy already has. He should be enforcing the rules of the bible and being certain that these young boys are growing into proper men. His job is to make these budding men into productive citizens and one day fathers that make up a proud community.
Getting arrested for soliciting a prostitute was bad enough. Using excessive amounts of cocaine adds insult to injury. It reflects poorly on himself and the community. Instead of serving as an example of what right looks like and how to be a good Catholic man, he has chosen to be an example of the horrible truth that lies within all men that can be exposed in a moment of weakness by the devil.
The community of Charleston, WV, and the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese as a whole are now at a significant crossroads here. While they can send a firm message against prostitution and sin by casting Pennington aside, it could also be seen as a conflict of interest. As God and Jesus have preached to us all, we must love the sinner and hate the sin. Under that logic, he should be given the benefit of the doubt, and bathed in God’s love pending the outcome of that investigation.
What way would you go? Is it more God-like to shun him and act better than Jesus, or should they pick him up and help him pray the sin away?