A public post about teacher-student sexual misconduct

First of all, this isn’t a public service announcement. No one owes me anything for making this post, and I’d like to keep it that way. These are just my thoughts and opinions about a subject that remains close to my heart, that I’ve actually spoken with teachers and have had conversations about.

Secondly, you’ll never see me identify who the teacher was or who the student was. One, because I don’t know all the parties involved, and two, because I don’t believe in giving personality to a serious issue that should remain as objective as possible.

Some background: While I, personally, was never all that close to the scandal, it is also not the first time I heard of teacher-student misconduct occurring within the district. In the past, one of the teachers whom I admired greatly who had moved to a different school was also arrested on similar charges. When I heard about it, I was shocked and dismayed. I’d known him quite well. He was a real person to me, not just a name. I imagine that’s what quite a few of the members at my school feel right now, on top of disgust, betrayal, and anger.

In regards to the recent scandal at my high school, I’d like to make it very clear that we should not discuss in great depth the who, the why, and the how, simply because it’s unimportant. The more we try to delve into the scandal and dig up the gritty details to understand exactly what happened, the more the attention will turn from the issue itself to the gossipy, rumor-y, slut-shaming witch-hunt that all ineptly handled scandals become.

We already know exactly what happened: A teacher and a student became close. The teacher decided it was a good idea to take what was largely a platonic-professional relationship one step farther and sent an explicit e-mail to the student, soliciting a sexual relationship. This is not only unprofessional, but also highly illegal. It is an abuse of authority. The student reciprocated–this is also, frankly, illegal–and they developed a relationship beyond the teacher-student dynamic for several months before the student decided to cut it off. The teacher tried to continue the relationship. He got arrested for sexual misconduct.

It doesn’t just destroy one person’s life.

The teacher will have his teaching license revoked. The majority of employers will not hire him. Prison, regardless of security, sucks. He will lose all his references, his reputation, his friends, his family. He will be forever shamed.

The student will never be trusted to be alone with an authority figure again. She will lose her friends, her reputation, maybe her family. She will forever be labeled as a victim of a crime and may be shamed to hell and back. The trial is a grueling process for her and her family.

The family, the high school, the rest of the staff, the students, the administration–these are all victims of a crime committed by two people, one of whom should not have initiated the sexual relationship.

I’m not blaming the student for everything, and I’m not blaming the teacher for everything. As far as we know, there was no coercion involved. It was simply a bunch of terrible decisions by two people who couldn’t keep it in their pants. The student wised up, of course, but it doesn’t change the fact that it happened. 

It happened. That’s the crux of the issue: the fact that teacher-student misconduct happened. The discussion shouldn’t be about the crime itself, but about how to prevent future repeats of the same crime.

Some teachers already take precautions against this: they leave the doors open if they are the only person other than a student in the room, they make sure that they’re never alone with a student for longer than a few minutes, they’re careful to keep a distance between themselves and the student.

There are reasons for sensitivity workshops. You might think that there are too many of them for everything, but the fact that you still have to go to them highlights the fact that one, you should probably stop treating a real issue as a joke, and two, the issue is still highly relevant and three, there is a pressing need to reinforce the moral boundaries for fear that someone oversteps, like recently.

If a teacher sends an explicit e-mail, do not reply. If a student sends an explicit e-mail, do not reply. Report them immediately for soliciting sex or abusing authority. If a teacher propositions a student, turn them down. If a student propositions a teacher, turn them down. Report them.

In the end, we’re all fallible human beings. We all make terrible, terrible mistakes that costs everybody everything. But it doesn’t matter who does it, how it happened or why. It matters who can stop it and how to stop it.

Maturity isn’t just for old people. The student did the right thing by reporting the teacher after she ended the relationship and he tried to continue it, but, honestly, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. And please, remember that it takes two people to make a relationship, not just one. Do some thinking before heaping the blame onto one person and trying paint the other a victim in a consensual relationship. Realize that, even it was a crime due to an abuse of authority, these aren’t clear cut lines. They’re arbitrary, even though it being a consensual relationship doesn’t change the fact that it’s illegal.

As always, make good decisions. Take responsibility. Discuss with conscience. Don’t turn a shit storm into a shit hurricane.


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