News Analysis: Teachers, Students and Sex

Curriculum Administrator, May 2001 | Go to article overview

News Analysis: Teachers, Students and Sex


In recent months, it seems you can't turn on the local evening news--or pick up your hometown newspaper--without hearing something like this: In St. Louis Park, Minn., a 30-year-old male former High School teacher was sentenced to nearly four months in custody after admitting to having sex with a then 16-year-old female student.

Or this: Two female teachers in Bentonville, Ark., were arrested after a sexual tryst with a 16-year-old male student. One was charged for allegedly having sex with the student, while the other was charged as an accomplice for allegedly helping her friend.

How about this: A former Ogden, Utah, high school teacher received a three-month jail sentence for his part in a "sex for grades" scandal where fondled one 18-year-old female student, and propositioned perhaps as many as six others.

Had enough? Let's try this: A North Bergen, N.J., teacher was either allegedly so preoccupied with paperwork that while a group of nine students played "Truth or Dare" in her classroom, a 14-year-old girl performed oral sex on one student and let at least two other kiss and fondle her.

And lastly, a 32-year-old New Britain, Conn., high school teacher, who allegedly carried on a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female student, fled the state and was apprehended in New Jersey.

Except in the instance where the educator admitted guilt, all of the charges are alleged. But alarmingly, published reports of developments in each of these cases occurred within just a three-day period.

What is going on? At a time when local, state and federal governments grapple with educational issues as it relates to funding, accountability, testing, salaries and inadequate math, science and reading scores, maybe more attention needs to be paid to the unacceptable sexualization of young students at the hands of some of educators.

Such cases are not new to the education landscape, nor are they necessarily spreading or increasing. But what steps are being taken to eradicate the problem, and why aren't those remedies working?

"Unfortunately, it seems as if it's always been there," says Jeff Linton, director of curriculum and instruction for Regional School District 10 in Burlington, Conn. "And, it's always wrong."

Linton investigates sexual harassment cases and complaints, and he says that virtually all schools have policies about inappropriate sexual contact between teachers and students, in addition to general sexual harassment guidelines.

"I don't know if this kind of cases have increased or not, because I don't have statistics," Linton says. "But, it seems stories of these types are more prevalent in the media. It seems we hear about these cases more quickly."

The National School Public Relations Association, a nonprofit located in Rockville, Md., advises school districts in how to deal with the public ramifications of serious incidents involving students or faculty, such as school shootings or sexual misconduct cases.

While the group does not know whether there has been an increase in sexual cases involving students and teachers, the organization says there is only one way to handle them. …

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