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Bob Rakow's B-Side: Yes there may be some flaws, but Filan shouldn’t be judged

  • Written by Bob Rakow

  The motto at Brother Rice High School is “Act Manfully in Christ Jesus.”
  I suppose you could argue veteran teacher Al Filan did not live up to that motto. If you doubt me, I’d be happy to share with you some of the Facebook posts I’ve read regarding his unfortunate death.
  Sadly, some couldn’t wait to cast judgment on the man, while others (former students) were quick to recall what a bad guy he was, supporting their claims by recalling some incident or another that happened at the school 30 years ago.
  Filan’s demise has been covered by every media outlet imaginable, including one of the New York dailies, which feasts on sensationalistic headlines. Filan, 61, was allegedly murdered Jan. 18 by a 20-year-old woman he contacted via an escort service, police said.
  The family of the woman, Alisha Walker, of Akron, Ohio, maintains that she acted in self-defense when she allegedly stabbed Filan following an argument over services rendered. Walker was arrested a few days later and is in Cook County Jail where she’ll await trial. We’ll know more details soon enough.
  Police say Filan contacted the woman on a Backpage.com, a website that includes an adult section featuring escort services, massage parlors, phone sex and a variety of other salacious items not often mentioned in polite company. He had seen the woman on previous occasions, they say.
  Soon after Filan’s death was reported, Facebook blew up.
  One post said, in part, “…this reeks of hypocrisy to the point of being offensive. Come on. Catholic teachings/prostitution. Those things don’t really mesh.”
  I understand that people are shocked, disappointed, saddened. We don’t expect dedicated educators who’ve given four decades of their lives to teaching and coaching to have a sordid past. After all, teachers are supposed to serve as role models and offer guidance to our children. That’s the hope. It’s not always reality.
  I’m shocked that anyone—especially those who knew him—would criticize Filan. He died a horrible death, the result of some poor decisions. It’s sad, but we do not know all the circumstances, the entire story. Maybe the better course would be to back off and simply mourn the death of man who made a difference. Remember that he has a family who is struggling over the death of a loved one.
  Others Facebook posters have not focused on Filan’s actions or character, but how his misdeeds may affect the reputation and future of Brother Rice High School. The school is the victim, one Facebook poster argued.
  But another Facebook poster retorted: “I guess my main point is that an individual’s indiscretions don’t automatically prove the values they promote as unworthy (and by extension the organizations they represent), but there seems little disagreement there.”
  That’s spot on. Al Filan went into the classroom every day for 40 years and spent after-school hours on the soccer field or basketball court. He, like many other long-tenured teachers at Brother Rice, was dedicated and committed—but not perfect. Was he alone? I doubt it. Schools are full of fine educators who have a failing, a weakness, an episode in their private lives they’d prefer not to reveal. Unlike Filan, however, they weren’t killed as a consequence.
  Another Facebook post I came across summarizes my feelings on this whole tragic incident. “If we got a hidden camera view into your lives, any time you might have mistreated someone, any time you were not consistent with values you promoted, every deep dark secret, would it paint a picture of a morally flawless person, one who can cast judgment yet cannot be judged, or would it be a picture of another flawed human being?”
  Say a prayer for Al Filan and his family.