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Archive for Monday, April 16, 2007

Teacher’s case rare in Kansas

Officials say incidents of staff having sex with students don’t happen often in state

April 16, 2007

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It's shocking. It's often hidden. And, if the teens involved are younger than 18, it's a crime.

Despite several high-profile national cases about teachers having sexual relations with students - and allegations surrounding a Lawrence High School teacher - checks with education officials indicate such cases are fairly rare in Kansas.

After reviewing his files, a Kansas Department of Education attorney said Friday that, at most, one or two cases occur in the state each year.

What's surprised Janet Waugh, a Kansas State Board of Education member, is that increasingly female teachers have been involved.

"When I was on my local board, there was some concern about male teachers," Waugh said. "I don't ever recall women. : That's what the shocker is, the women."

LHS teacher

The local case centers on allegations that a 24-year-old Lawrence High School teacher had sex with a 15-year-old boy between August and mid-March. The Journal-World does not print the name of a person accused of a sex crime unless there has been a conviction.

The teacher, whose case is set for a preliminary hearing in June, is charged with two counts of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and two counts of criminal sodomy.

The woman, who was in her first year of teaching at LHS, has been suspended from her job with pay. The school board has agreed not to hire her back next year, and on Friday it will determine whether to cut off her pay.

Unusual event

Steve Nilhas, LHS principal, said that discussions are regularly held at the school about appropriate behavior around students.

"Any new employee, whether it's a teacher or a paraprofessional, there is an orientation process that occurs both at the district level and the building level," Nilhas said. "A whole myriad of issues are addressed, including those types of issues."

However, he said no formal meetings have been called to discuss the issue.

"I think it's something that's ongoing," he said.

Scott Morgan, who recently was elected to the Lawrence school board and will take office in July, said it was every parent's "worst nightmare" to drop off their children at school and have something happen to them. However, he said he was not concerned about LHS.

"I feel they're very safe at Lawrence High - safer than when I went to Lawrence High," Morgan said. "We've been lucky in Lawrence that these kinds of things are now news - in that they are the exception. What you judge it by is how quickly it was dealt with."

Changing attitudes

Teachers having affairs with students is nothing new, says Waugh, whose district includes part of Lawrence.

"I have a dear friend who is my age who married her high school teacher," said Waugh, 65. "He was six or seven years older than we were, and she was my age."

And Sally Roberts, associate dean at Kansas University's School of Education had another story: One of her friends married their high school Spanish teacher six days after graduation in 1964 - "which means they probably had been having an affair for the whole year."

The female student was 17 and the teacher was 34, Roberts said.

"There was no outrage," Roberts said.

That wouldn't be the case today, she added.

Roberts said KU turns out about 140 students a year into the ranks of teachers. The majority are women, she said. And they do often discuss the ramifications of having sex with a student, she said.

Some young female teachers might not see a boy who is much physically larger than herself as being a victim, Roberts said. That's the attitude that needs to be changed, she said.

"You might think, 'Big deal, he's a big guy. He can tell me no,'" Roberts said. "If he is 16 and you are 23, he is still the victim."

Comments

aeroscout17 6 years, 12 months ago

Shawna wrote "When I was in high school, during the early 1990s, there was a relationship between a girl and a math teacher. They are now married. Her father was head of the math dept, her mother head of the home ec dept. Reportedly the parents, girl, and teacher had a meeting to discuss how the relationship should proceed without causing problems. Not sure if other school officials were aware. Many students sure were." ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Yes I am sure other officials must have been aware since the teachers were aware. I know exactly who you are talking about as I taught at EHS back then....

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ileen 6 years, 12 months ago

It wasn't all that long ago that a girl of 12 could be a common law wife in fact it was about 4 years ago and know one blinked . Tell me if a person comes out of prison and tries to make a life for themselves and this 14 yr. old won't leave them alone and tries to get them fired or put back in prison what happens them . We have allowed these girls to not be accountable for there actions so they know that the law can't touch them as far as a teacher having sex with a 15 yr. old . She should stand the same punishment that a boy of 18 does . What makes her above the law

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Sigmund 7 years ago

This has little to do with politics and more to do with biology. It wasn't all that long ago that girls were married off by their families as early as 14 and no one blinked an eye. Crushes on teachers are nothing new and neither is the attractiveness of youth to those who are older. 16 is the legal age of consent in Kansas and they are considered adults as far as expressing their sexuality is concerned, unless some other relationship exists between them and society imposes added restrictions (parent/child, guard/prisoner, teacher/student). The rationale for these additional restrictions has to do with one person having legal responsibility for, power over, or biological relationship with the other and NOT their age differential.

We live in a world where sex is far more likely to be about recreational pleasure than about finding the "one true one," getting married, or raising a family. Expecting that legal teanaged/adult pairings rise above the current sexual morals of the society is not very realistic or even fair. But as long as they are legal (at least 16 years old and not otherwise prohibited) I expect that they will increase in their openness and garner greater press coverage as it piques many peoples fantasies, both male and female, young and old alike. When those couplings cross the legal line, as is alleged in this case, expect the coverage to be even more sensationalized. Less visible, but not uncommon, are the cases where these relationships develop into lifelong loving partnerships.

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Shawna Huffman 7 years ago

When I was in high school, during the early 1990s, there was a relationship between a girl and a math teacher. They are now married. Her father was head of the math dept, her mother head of the home ec dept. Reportedly the parents, girl, and teacher had a meeting to discuss how the relationship should proceed without causing problems. Not sure if other school officials were aware. Many students sure were.

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sissezz 7 years ago

right on, could not have said it better

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Pywacket 7 years ago

"Maybe it's because people like to be angry and outraged..."?

No, maybe it's because society has a better handle on what constitutes abuse of minors.

Perhaps Roberts' 17-yr-old friend was NOT a victim and it did turn out okay. In retrospect, it was still wrong to start things with her while she was his student. Perhaps he was a peach and she was unusually mature for 17, etc... That's leaving a lot to chance. Roberts doesn't elaborate, so we don't know much about that marriage, but whenever there is such a disparity of age, not to mention an initial disparity in equality (teacher = authority figure, especially back then; student = subordinate), you're asking for huge problems. I wonder how many such pairings had a fairy tale ending--especially for the younger partner.

We can't know whether any given teacher/student relationship will be based on positive factors such as mutual respect, interests beyond physical attraction, etc. We can't know that when our kids date their peers, either--but when they date their peers, they are not starting out on the lopsided footing of one of them being older and in a position of authority and power over the other!

By condoning teacher-student pairings, we would green-light the manipulative, the emotionally stunted, control freaks, pedophiles, and all kinds of aberrent adults who have made their way into teaching positions (and don't think a few creeps don't go into teaching just for the chance of easy prey) to pick and choose among their young students--zeroing in on the most vulnerable among them.

If these predatory adults enjoy dominating powerless subordinates (emotionally or physically), what better way to start a marriage than with some poor confused kid who came from a sketchy background and is willing to agree with whatever his/her more powerful partner tells him/her to do. If the kid has not been very successful with attracting his/her own peers for a relationship, it's easy to see how he or she might fall for the attentions of a predatory adult.

One example of a teacher/student marriage that worked (maybe), does not mean it's okay. If that teacher had had any decency, he would have waited until the girl had graduated (at the very least) before acting on his impulses. I do not believe the end justifies the means in these situations.

Maybe Roberts' friend's marriage has been a constant delight--or maybe, once the wife got older, he went back to seducing 17-year-olds. Maybe Roberts doesn't know and was unwise to even mention this isolated example.

That's the thing--the teacher "could" really believe that the student is "the one" and live accordingly (which is still scary for several reasons). Or the teacher COULD just have a thing for a particular age-group of students. Predators often focus on one particular age. Our laws must reflect the latter possibility, for the protection of all students.

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x96merrill3 7 years ago

Dambudzo, I believe in God and the teachings of Christianity....what is wrong with me?

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Dambudzo 7 years ago

This is no surprise. Kansas is a red state. It has lots of folk with high morals. Alot of Christians too.

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compmd 7 years ago

I thought I went to the only high school to employ "paraprofessionals." :)

"There was no outrage," Roberts said.

That wouldn't be the case today, she added.

Maybe its because people like to be angry and outraged constantly today. 24-hour news stations help ensure that.

"You might think, 'Big deal, he's a big guy. He can tell me no,'" Roberts said. "If he is 16 and you are 23, he is still the victim."

But the 17 and 34 year old were ok. No victims there, right?

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solsken66 7 years ago

A school district can just release the teacher, quietly. Then that teacher can find another school district to seek a position. Would the above senerio happen, any guesses?

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