The innocence of children, the worry of parents

We knew about the arrest of school bus driver, Kenneth Webb, Saturday. He was arrested and charged with 10 counts of possession of child pornography. We saw other reports about the arrest and decided to wait before we reported on it. We wanted to dig in a little deeper than just reporting his arrest. He was jailed with originally no bond but after his first appearance the judge set his bond at $100,000. One more zero on the end of that would have been nice.

Webb lives in Navarre, drove a bus in Navarre and ultimately had hundreds of children in his care every day. We acknowledge that he is innocent until proven guilty and we respect the judicial process in our country. But as with the many parents of Navarre, we find ourselves looking at every aspect of Webb’s life.

The arrest report is disturbing as it describes each little girl in the photos – all are prepubescent. Some wore their hair in “pig-tails,” some were wearing makeup, some were prepositioned, some were shown with adult toys and another was shown having sex with an adult male. Some were as young as 3 years old. Are you shocked yet? We are. How is it that an older man – any man – can look at a toddler in that way and have those thoughts? But Webb, if guilty, is not alone. There are too many others like him.

As far as we know, he was a voyeur. And according to an article written by Dr. Steven Gaskell, a forensic psychologist, while some child pornography offenders do go on to be contact offenders, engaging in child pornography offending does not inevitably lead to the direct sexual victimization of children.

We are sure in some way that is supposed to comfort those parents whose children rode on the bus Webb drove. But it really doesn’t. Whether he physically touched a child or not, he looked at them. The cover of Webb’s Facebook page depicts a little girl running up the steps of the bus as he smiles down at her. A week ago that would have been a sweet picture by a bus driver who cared about his bus riders but today that photo isn’t so sweet. We now know he allegedly looked at little girls like the one running up the steps in a completely dark and twisted way on the internet. Just the thought of it…

There isn’t anything more important than our children. Nothing more important than their safety. There are certain things that are out of the control of the transportation company hired by the Santa Rosa County School District. This must be a nightmare for them – it would be for any company much less a bus company that transports our children. They perform background checks and have criteria that must be met before drivers are hired. But background checks do not open the curtains on a man’s house. What goes on behind closed doors stays there unless a person is caught and arrested like Webb or has a prior recorded arrest history.

We strive to find the lesson in circumstances like these. The only lesson we can learn is the same one we keep coming back to time and again in Navarre Press whether the issue is internet safety, suicide prevention, anti-bullying or this. Parents must train their children to be aware of their surroundings at every age appropriate level. There are situations where we can’t be there – a bus is one of them. Train your child how to respond to all the different situations you can think of. We get caught up in first days of school and the frenzy that accompanies it. We pass on our excitement to our children and try to make it a positive experience for them. But long before school starts, we should be having real world conversations with our children on their level. And it has to keep going – never stop training. It should be another form of homework. Make a game out of it with questions and multiple-choice answers with rewards for earning points.

The bottom line is this: Our children deserve to be armed with the knowledge of how to react and what to do in all situations. They should never have to stop and think about it. They should not hesitate. It is our jobs as parents to ensure their safety to the best of our ability even when we aren’t there.

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