By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Man Vies to Be Sickest of All
Molester also wanted to direct Pampers ads
You know what they say. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
That was what residents of rural Jasper County thought in January of 2009 when poorly written handmade signs started popping up along back roads offering dirt-cheap babysitting services.
How cheap? How about $12 for an entire weekend for up to four children.
Wow. What a deal. What's the catch?
Well, like the sign said, the children all had to be females. What's more, they needed to be between 11 months and nine years old.
And then there was the whole matter of the babysitter: 55-year-old Thomas Louis Van Hook had been convicted over the years of exposing himself to three little girls — a three-year-old, a four-year-old and a six-year-old — but by then, he was off parole and there were no stipulations that he stay away from children.
And make no mistake: As if his fledgling babysitting business didn't offer enough of a hint he was not reformed, there was his dream of helping to direct more-erotic diapers commercials.
In 2004, he was alleged to have written Procter & Gamble, the parent company of Pampers, a letter outlining 12 ways they could do more to show the genital area of little girls in their TV commercials. According to the Beaumont Examiner: "One scenario was that Pampers' commercials should show a little girl laying on a couch for a diaper change and the cameras could show her, 'with her little legs wide open.'"
The seven-page letter went on to express a belief that diaper wipes should be used on girls as old as nine and closed thusly: "There should not be a problem of your showing a nine-year-old girl's beautiful, pretty little hairless..."
Procter & Gamble's head of corporate security forwarded the letter to Jasper County authorities.
Van Hook was arrested in January of last year and charged with failing to comply with his sex offender registration — a spokesperson for the Jasper County District Attorney's office tells Hair Balls that Van Hook failed to inform authorities about the nature of his employment. On raiding his house, cops hauled away several garbage bags full of what they described as "sexual paraphernalia," including dolls he had altered to include genitals.
He had been held on $300,000 bond ever since then and now he has been convicted. A jury assessed punishment at 40 years, so it's safe to say Van Hook won't be doing much babysitting any time soon.
HISD Cuts Here, Hires in California
The Houston ISD is heading out to California (and later to Louisiana, Michigan and Florida!) to recruit teachers, its press office has announced.
Specifically, it is looking for bilingual, secondary math and science teachers and cash-strapped California — where reportedly more than 20,000 teachers are facing the prospect of pink slips in the next few months — is a niche market right now.
"As school districts across the nation face the difficult task of laying off teachers, the Houston Independent School District is not only looking for highly effective teachers to join their Texas team but is offering hiring bonuses," the release from the district's press office began.
Um, the only thing is, it was just awhile back on March 4, at the HISD budget agenda workshop, when the administration announced it was eliminating at least 269 positions and that there would be more to come as a way of combating budget shortages. Superintendent Terry Grier and his staff said there would be a hiring freeze until it was determined whether the lost jobs would be taken care of by attrition or the employees could move to other positions. They also said new positions could be created in their ambitious reorganization, which might result in even more cutbacks in previous staffing.
Sarah Greer Osborne in the HISD media relations office expressed surprise at all the local interest in the announcement that the state would be going out to hire teachers. "We went to California a couple years ago," she said.
Asked about the timing of this year's enterprise given HISD's own shaky finances, Osborne said, "Most of the positions being cut are not teachers." And the positions they're looking for "in three critical shortage areas" are always tough ones to fill, she said.
The hiring bonuses are as follows: as much as $6,000 for bilingual education, secondary math and science. Special-ed teachers could get a $5,000 bonus. And for the first time, "in an effort to lure talent outside of Texas," the district offers a $1,500 bonus for critical-shortage candidates.
Asked about the out-of-state effort, one Friend of Hair Balls and longtime education specialist in Texas opined that whenever school districts look outward while at the same time trimming their own ranks, it's usually to bring in younger (cheaper) teachers.
In the case of California teachers, about to be unemployed and desperate, Houston with its much lower cost of living could look like the Promised Land.