Sunday, March 21, 2004

This Army Is AWOL

Last year Memphis was wracked by the aftermath of a series of day care tragedies. A lot of kids died needlessly and folks searched for solutions. The Commercial Appeal stepped into unprecedented territory by injecting itself into the day-care situation in Memphis with the formation of Amber's Army.

With the CA leading the way, Amber's Army was going to sweep across the Memphis day-care scene and make a difference! Things would change and little children wouldn't die any more. It was a brave new world for this newspaper, full of optimistic assurances and earnest promises. They weren't going to just report the news, they were going to make it as well!

Naturally, the hoopla died down and things went along as they do. The biggest result of the day-care scandals was a lot of new legislation in Nashville. New, more expensive vans would be mandated; more employees would be required. A new, ten-page procedure for counting children getting in and out of the transport vans was concocted. They were, largely, onerous regulations that were later watered down. That was about it.

Come March, 2004, and another child is found unattended in another day-care van. In this case, she did not die. But the investigation turned up a heinous criminal history on one of the day-care's employees, and unveiled an astonishing lapse in communications between local and State government agencies, one that allowed this rapist to work near children. Procedures meant as guarantees proved flimsy as tissue because people simply faked the paperwork. All that sound and fury, so many high-flying speeches and solemn pronouncements, and we're still where we were.

Memphis again went into an orgy of "what to do." We were back to square one. Once more the Commercial Appeal editorialised about it. They pointed a lot of fingers. But there is one question they haven't asked. One finger still unpointed. I wonder if they have the courage at the paper to ask:

Where was Amber's Army?

Having injected itself into the story last year, they must now accept a part of the responsibility. What has Amber's Army done lately?

Go to the site and you'll see that it hasn't been updated since August of 2003. Last year. Eight months ago. Why did they stop? Why did they abandon the children? Did they think their job done? Why? Did they lose interest? I'm sure Karlissia probably would wish they hadn't. Will the paper investigate itself? Will they ask the tough questions of themselves? Will they even renew themselves to their own cause?

Amber's Army was AWOL. Now, who will bring the charge? Who will watch the watchmen?

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