The head of Washington state’s public school system is logging a day in detention this week. That’s one way to look at the 24 hours in jail imposed on Randy Dorn for his drunken driving episode last month in rural Pierce County.
Dorn, who pleaded guilty, is calling it a “teachable moment,” an apt phrase coming from the state superintendent of public instruction.
But it could have been even more teachable in this age when nearly every week brings forth another public figure caught in a moment of embarrassment. That is, while Dorn has said and done many of the right things during a difficult time, he could have set an even better example for others to follow when the spotlight shines on them.
To Dorn’s credit, he made an unqualified apology to his family, his office staff, his supporters and the people of Washington. He promised to learn from the experience and do what he must to earn back public trust. He agreed to accept the consequences, and hence, he woke up this morning in jail.
Still, there are some things Dorn might have said but didn’t as well as some others he did say but might have left unsaid.
Having said he wanted to face the music for his bad decision, he couldn’t resist mitigating his own accountability by noting that his attorney thinks he could have fought the case successfully. After all, he did register a 0.11 percent blood alcohol level, well over the 0.08 set by law – and that was an hour and a half after being pulled over.
He also hasn’t been forthcoming as to how much beer he consumed at the crab feed he and his family attended that Saturday night. He said he had “beer” with dinner. One beer? Half a dozen? How many does it take to produce a 0.11? That’s information that would help the public evaluate his lapse of judgment.
After all, Dorn has stated more than once that the public has a right to know the details.
Which raises the question of why he didn’t disclose the incident, proactively, as soon as possible after his March 21 arrest. Instead, he waited two days, and only after reporters came looking for confirmation of reports they’d received from other sources.
Dorn’s performance in the wake of an embarrassment marks an improvement on some of the qualification-filled examples we’ve seen when other officials and celebrities stumbled. But, as a classroom teacher might have put it, there’s room for improvement.