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The double standards of student-teacher sex abuse

The learning curve



What's with the recent spate of female teachers preying on their male teenage students? It seems as if every week, there is a story about some "hot" teacher under fire for going down under with a male student.

Perhaps the phenomenon is not as prevalent as the media makes it seem, but when a school district gains fame because of the number of teacher arrests related to "consensual" sexual relationships with teenage boys, it makes you wonder.

Within the last four years, the Hillsborough School District in Tampa, Florida has had four teachers charged with some form of sexual battery or abuse for having sex with their students; three of the victims were boys and one of the victims was a girl. To be fair, this district is a huge one, known locally and regionally for many positive outcomes. However, its national reputation has been sullied by the coverage of its predatory teachers, with Debra Lafave probably being the most infamous.

You may remember the "blonde bombshell," who was discovered having an affair with her 14-year-old male student. Most of the media coverage focused on her looks as opposed to the crime that she had committed. The commentary was a steady stream of incredulousness of why a beautiful woman, who could seemingly have any man she wanted, would choose a 14 year old? When she was criticized, it was for cheating on her husband instead of preying on a child.

Instead of asking why this woman was sexually abusing her student, the media focused on the wrong thing, her looks, as if beauty has anything to do with being an abuser. Ironically, it is this preoccupation with superficiality that promotes this type of behavior as evidenced by the outcome of the Lafave case.

Lafave is currently serving three years of house arrest and seven years of probation after pleading guilty to having sex with the student during a 2004 affair. She was 23 years old at the time. How is it that someone who engaged in an "affair," which is an on-going sexual relationship with a child, gets house arrest and probation? She even violated her probation by discussing her personal life with a 17-year-old female co-worker at a restaurant, but avoided prison when a Florida judge ruled that her violations were neither "willful nor substantial" enough to merit jail time. I suspect if sexually abusing a child does not merit jail time, then talking to one should not either.

What makes this even more ridiculous is the subsequent arrests that have taken place in the school district. Why? I would argue that there was no real punishment for Lafave, so there is no deterrent for that kind of behavior. It is truly sad when your school district is put on the map because of the number of teacher arrests for sexual abuse.

Could it be that the courts are not prosecuting these women as harshly because of some very adult fantasies that promote this idea of the hot teacher? You know the one -- the sexpot that lives within some frigid schoolteacher, just waiting to be unleashed by a teenage schoolboy. People need to realize that this is not Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" video. This is real life, and these teachers should be properly punished with jail time for preying on these young boys.

I find it fascinating that people think this phenomenon is funny. When it is a male teacher and female student, society is up in arms and he is persecuted, often with the media leading the charge. When it is a female teacher and male student, then the critique is nonexistent. They become the butt of the joke for late-night talk show hosts and people excuse the behavior because "boys will be boys." "That's every man's fantasy, so what's the big deal?" Why are these boys being held accountable for the criminal behavior of adult female predators? Perhaps if Lafave had been punished as if she were a man, then Jaymee Wallace, Christina Butler, Stephanie Ragusa and Mary Jo Spack would not have been arrested for the same crime in 2007 and 2008. This is a learning curve that our students can do without, and one that our teachers do not need. It is not cool to have sex with your students, period. It is an abuse of power of the teacher-student relationship and of the child that is involved. Just because it is a woman doing the molesting, does not make it less destructive or hurtful for the child.

We must stop allowing fantasies to rule our realities in what appears to be a growing problem.

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