EDITORIAL: Northeastern should break its silence now
- We look away from domestic violence because it has long been a taboo and private issue.
- After the dismissal of Northeastern Superintendent Shawn Minnich, an opportunity arose for candor.
- Northeastern would do well to break its silence and begin a dialogue about domestic violence.
It is said that one of domestic violence’s greatest allies is silence.
As a society, we are culturally programmed to look the other way: what happens under our neighbor’s roof is none of our concern. You can’t know a marriage unless you are in it.
We also rarely — if ever — address the subject from an educational standpoint, by talking to children about the insidious nature of domestic violence and teaching them tools to avoid, counteract and speak out against it as they mature into adulthood.
York County consistently ranks third in the state for numbers of annual domestic murders, according to the local Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team.
Four men murdered their domestic partners or former partners in 2015 before turning their guns on themselves — and in two cases the gunman also claimed a second victim before committing suicide.
Most recently, on Sept. 12, North Codorus Township resident Scott Hoke fatally shot his estranged wife, Susan Hoke, in the head. He then fatally shot himself in the head, police said. The couple’s teenage daughter was home at the time. She escaped physical injury and ran to a neighbor's home to call 911.
Susan Hoke had obtained a protection from abuse order just a few months prior to her death, public records show, but the legal force of the document was no match for the deadly force of her husband’s rage.
There is something about crimes so egregious, and so difficult to wrap our minds around, that make us look the other way. And speaking up is a complex issue because of domestic violence's personal nature and the fear of danger and/or retribution should an outsider intercede.
This may be gradually evolving, but it’s not changing quickly enough to save women like those in York County who fall victim to domestic violence daily.
That's why we believe Northeastern school board’s continued and stubborn silence on the domestic abuse charges against former Superintendent Shawn Minnich is not only an affront to public transparency — because the school, funded by taxpayers, owes those taxpayers information and insight into its process — but neglects its responsibility as the educational epicenter of the community. Simply put, it could use this event as a teachable moment.
Minnich is accused of bursting into the East Manchester Township home of his estranged wife, Kathy Minnich, on Dec. 4, 2015, and physically assaulting her boyfriend. He was charged with aggravated assault, burglary, making terroristic threats, simple assault, criminal trespass, reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and harassment.
Minnich's trial is scheduled for Oct. 30. His attorney asked a judge to throw out his aggravated-assault charge, the only felony charge against the former superintendent, but this motion was denied.
The school board initially continued to support Minnich after he was charged last December, refusing to suspend him or comment on the matter until a June 2 school board meeting, where the board suspended him without pay after he lost his teaching certificate due to the charges.. And still there was very little comment or transparency.
On Sept. 20, the school board dismissed Minnich. That move created an opportunity for the school to begin a conversation about domestic violence in general.
Minnich will face the charges in court and is innocent until proven otherwise, but that doesn’t mean the district can’t shed light on an issue too long in the shadows. It needn’t implicate him, simply use the case, and the issues it highlights, as a jumping off point for a discussion.
If it does so, the district not only captures a crucial opportunity for communication, but it breaks the institutional code of silence that could provide justification for others to follow suit.
By burying its head in the sand, it upholds a long tradition of communities looking away from something they could be taking steps to help prevent.
Given Northeastern’s wall of silence thus far, we’re not expecting anything but more of the same.
Still, a conversation — initiated by the educational center of the community — about how domestic violence permeates all socioeconomic stratospheres of society could go a long way to start an ongoing and vitally beneficial conversation.
It could break the silence.