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Pre-2008 Posts

Elementary School Principal Sexually Assaults Women, Seeks to Keep Job

Alex Coberly

The pleasant, kind-looking man in the photo is Alex Coberly, 33, who has been employed by the Seattle School District since 1998 and who has been an elementary school principal for the past three years.

On November 22, he did something he later told police he’s done a number of times in the past:  he intentionally slowed his car (emblazoned with children’s stickers of various kinds)  alongside a car carrying two young women, smiled at them, then attracted the attention of the woman on the passenger side to his upraised, naked body and the movements he was making with it.  The women wrote down his license plate number, took note of what he looked like, called 911 and he was arrested. 

What is interesting is, his attorney and some school district officials, parents of students, and former students have argued that Coberly should be able to keep his job, that his history of exposing himself to women doesn’t have anything to do with his performance as a school principal.  His attorney told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer he feels there is “no connection between this incident and [Coberly’s] job [because] it doesn’t involve children and doesn’t involve his work.” 

Also interesting  are the people who express sympathy for Coberly and talk about how “sad” this is for him, what a “tragedy,” what a “nice man” he is, and so on.

What about the women this man sexually assaulted?  Not just the two who managed to get his license plate number, but all of the other women he says he’s assaulted in the same way?  Having a man display his genitals in a menacing and intimidating way is sexual assault if you are a woman, girl, or boy.  It is not “flashing,” which sounds funny and cute and harmless.   It’s not “exposing himself,” either.  I think, say, peeing on the side of the road would be more consistent with “exposing oneself;” “exposing” doesn’t communicate the truth of what is done in instances like this.   These assaults are never just about “exposure.”  When men assault women in this way, they do it to intimidate, threaten, and shock women.  Their penises are usually erect and they are usually moving their pelvises menacingly.   It is scary and traumatic to women who are victimized by it and would be destructive and frightening no matter what, but it is particularly harmful to women who have already been raped or sexually assaulted, meaning at least one out of three women (And I believe the number is closer to one of two or even more).

I will grant that he does look like a nice guy, in the same way the guys in the Craig’s List experiment looked like nice guys.  He looks harmless, like the guy next door or your brother’s friend.   And yeah, these guys are nice — all the way up until they feel like sexually assaulting, threatening, or menacing girls and women because it gets them off.   Then they aren’t nice at all.

I wonder whether those defending the principal would feel the same way if he’d sexually assaulted them, their daughters, their mothers?  If he’d driven alongside them, this really nice-, normal-appearing guy with kids’ stickers on his car, and thrust his erect penis in their faces?  What will it take, what level of sexual violation is required, for it to matter more that a woman has been sexually assaulted than it matters whether the man who violated her keeps his job or can move on as if nothing had happened?  Why is a sexual predator’s reputation of more concern than the lives of the women he has  harmed?

Link, Link,  Link to Educating Mom’s blog, a blog of a parent with kids at the school where Coberly was principal.  There are comments from parents and others in the link.

Heart

Discussion

10 thoughts on “Elementary School Principal Sexually Assaults Women, Seeks to Keep Job

  1. Hi Heart,

    You asked:

    “I wonder whether those defending the principal would feel the same way if he’d sexually assaulted them, their daughters, their mothers? ”

    They probably would, if they were like my mother, and 90% of the mothers of women who have been sexually assaulted by our fathers.

    Daughter? Hell, no. Males? Hell, yeah!

    That’s what we’re up against, on *all* fronts, not just sexual assault.

    And of course, all of these folks claim to just *love* women.

    Mary S.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | January 18, 2007, 12:00 am
  2. The people defending this man are claiming that his actions have nothing to do with his work. At what age does a “girl” become a “woman” who he would assault? 12? 10? Would he assault a teacher, or other female employee at the school? I say fire him.

    Posted by lafeminista | January 18, 2007, 7:47 pm
  3. You know, if he’s convicted, he may not be able to keep his job anyway. In my state, it’s quite common for HHS and public ed organizations to run a CORI check on applicants. A drug bust could keep you out, for Hades’ sake, but then, the rules are different when it’s a guy “only” having some fun.

    Sheesh. What that columnist said was right–most sexual offenders start off with “minor” offenses–peeping, flashing, or stealing underwear. Some eventually graduate to far more serious (in the legal definition, at least) offenses.

    Posted by Sheelzebub | January 18, 2007, 8:32 pm
  4. Given that there were kids in the car with the two women, shouldn’t that be enough to prove that he’s not “just” scaring women, he’s also going after kids?

    Posted by theobromophile | January 19, 2007, 6:46 pm
  5. I have a friend who co-wrote a really interesting paper about the language used to describe the defendent and his actions in cases where he was *convicted* (from analysis of court records in Canada). There were plenty of references to his otherwise exemplary character, as if this was an aberrant, unusual act. Also the use of terms like ‘kiss’, ‘fondle’ etc. My friend suggested that these are words associated with affection and therefore were not accurate descriptors. Rather they should say ‘unwanted oral contact’ and ‘unwanted physical contact’. My friend also suggested that rather than ‘sexual abuse’ one should say ‘sexualised abuse’ because abuse is abuse and not actually sex – his (my friend is male) argument was that calling it sex because it involves a penis is like hitting someone over the head with a frying pan and calling it ‘cooking’.

    I am stunned that anyone could defend this guy’s actions and ‘right’ to work in a school. I don’t think that would happen in the UK quite so easily but I could be wrong.

    Posted by snowqueen | January 20, 2007, 1:13 am
  6. Snowqueen, I think those are some terrific points your friend made in his paper. I wonder where those terms came from (kiss, fondle, etc.) — the defendant’s own pleadings or the court’s? I can imagine the attorney for the defendant trying to minimize the contact by using those “affection” words, but I’d certainly like to see the court use the more correct wording when handing down the conviction!

    Put me squarely in the camp that says this guy does not deserve to work with minors, especially girls.

    Posted by Denise | January 20, 2007, 9:31 am
  7. if you are interested here’s a link to the article: http://das.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/15/5/499
    or this one: http://www.springerlink.com/content/k79u647l7g25708x/
    or this one: http://jls.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/24/2/139

    I think these are all the same piece of research but with slightly different angles.

    Posted by snowqueen | January 20, 2007, 11:15 pm
  8. It’s either ok or it’s not ok to show your penis to people without their consent. This is not a grey area. That some people attempt to make excuses for this guy scares me. These are probably the same people who think rape is ok in some instances.

    I started to write: if they liked the guy the correct approach would have been to like the guy, but dislike his actions…

    but -how can you “like” someone who shows his penis to people without their consent? This guy does not understand boundries. Why would you want someone who does not understand boundries to be in charge of children?

    Posted by J | January 21, 2007, 7:39 pm
  9. Great point, Snow Queen.

    If you say “grope,” most people get the idea that it’s unwanted. While dictionary.com is hardly the OED, it’s definition (first!) of “fondle” is: to handle or touch lovingly, affectionately, or tenderly; caress: to fondle a precious object; to fondle a child. As a law student, I would certainly think that the prosecutor should argue that, if the defendant wants to say he fondled the woman, he better well PROVE that it was with affection.

    Posted by theobromophile | February 9, 2007, 8:23 pm
  10. My daughter was at Whittier for kindegarten and first grade. Mr Coberly was liked by students and parents. He was a young, hip, fun principal. He was helpful to me as a single parent when financial issues stood in the way of child care and my job. I have friends that had met his family socially. We have kids the same age. Having said all that, learning of this ‘habit’, and recently reading about his lawer mentioning his ‘mental condition’ I would not be okay with him ever being involved with students. I have read other comments about this elsewhere, and good points were raised. Sexual perversion escalates over time. That is fact. How long would it take before it became a danger to children? As sad as we all have been about this, I would never support a rehire by the Seattle School District. I find it hard to believe it was even an issue. I am sad for his family and the embarassment they are dealing with. I wish them only the best, and am left feeling delusioned about people in trusted positions. YES educators are held to a higher moral code. This is not like a teacher who smokes cigarettes or drinks too much on weekends, or smokes pot at home, or cheats on their spouse. Just because it didn’t happen at the school, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t affect the Whittier family. How would parents explain THAT to their kids that learn this information about their beloved Mr C?

    Posted by H | June 11, 2007, 11:16 pm

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