Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mr. Runkle deserves better

I was in Mr. Runkle's class.
It was during Parents' Night. I sat there as a student would and listened to the seventh-grade science teacher talk about his teaching and grading and disipline philosophies.
It was hard to concentrate -- and not because of the subject matter or the teacher's public speaking skills.
It was because the room was lined with cages. I mean lined. Cages on low tables; cages on higher tables; cages stacked on cages.
There were chinchillas and snakes and everything in between.
"What a cool class," I thought.
It was Mr. Runkle's classroom menagerie and he was there seven days a week taking care of it. He stayed long after school let out and was always there on weekends.
I know because we lived only a few blocks from the school and we could see his car parked there all the time.
My kids really liked his class and I was glad they had him for a teacher.
Maybe you've heard about Dean Runkle.
He's been accused of killing Amy Mihaljevic, the 10-year-old abducted from a Bay Village shopping center in 1989.
Not accused as in accused by police, accused as in accused by Scene magazine writer James Renner based on (in his words) "five or six pieces of circumstantial evidence."
Well, shoot, this "news" is creating shock waves from one side of this country to the other as former students and parents hear about it.
The reactions follow the same pattern -- disbelief followed by a "well, he was a weirdo" followed by a "yeah, a weirdo who was able to motivate middle-school kids" and back to disbelief.
So, who IS this Scene magazine writer who has put Mr. Runkle on a skewer and dangled him over the jaws of those vicious and often illiterate Internet posters who care little for fact and even less for proof?
I Googled Renner.
He's a 30-year-old Cleveland author and film critic who is obsessed with Amy Mihaljevic.
He's also somewhat of a publicity hound. Check out his Today Show man-to-man kiss at
So, he's a (relative) kid throwing a 65-year-old strange but dedicated former teacher under the bus with "five or six pieces of circumstantial evidence," which were not enough for the FBI.
It just doesn't seem fair to me.