Teachers should take roll to see who’s abstinent

by Jim Longworth

Last week a 40-year-old male science teacher, once employed by Guilford County Schools but now living in Wilmington, married his 16-year-old female student. Reportedly the couple has been carrying on since she was 14. As disgusting and shocking as these nuptials seem to most of us, it was all quite legal. That’s because nearly every state allows girls to get married once they turn 16. In some states, like New Hampshire, a girl can marry at age 13 so long as the parents consent.

The male teacher in Wilmington has come under fire for taking advantage of a young, impressionable girl, as well he should. But public outcry is a bit different when a female teacher hooks up with a male student, and those incidents are becoming increasingly more common.

Over the past few years, scores of cases have been reported where a female teacher seduces, has sex with, even marries a young male student.

Mary Kay Letourneau started the media frenzy when, at age 34, she bore the child of her 12-year-old male student. Since then the national dishonor roll of teacher tarts gone wild is astounding. Here are just a few:

Amber Jennings of Massachusetts showed nude photos of herself to the boy she wanted to seduce.

Angela Comer of Kentucky fled to Mexico with her student lover.

Bethany Sherrill, a Missourian whose father-in-law was the school board chairman, scored with a 15-year-old boy.

Floridian Carol Flannigan slept with a student and his father concurrently.

Christine Duda of St. Louis lured her underage prey back to her apartment for sex.

Christine Scarlett of Ohio had a fling with the captain of the high school football team, then gave birth to his baby.

Deanna Bobo of Arkansas had sex with her 14-year-old student in his own bed while his parents were out of the house.

Diane DeMartini-Scully of New York was a school psychologist who had sex with the 16-year-old boyfriend of her own 13-year-old daughter.

Elizabeth Stow of Fresno seduced three of her male students.

Ellen Garfield, a music teacher in Newton, Mass., coaxed her student lovers into sex by first disrobing in an empty classroom.

And of course, there’s Debra LaFave who just last week plead her way out of a prison sentence in Florida. She’s the smoking hot middle school teacher who had sex with a 14-year-old male student in a car driven by his 15-year-old cousin.

The list of school sirens is endless and begs the question: Why?

A report suggests that many of these adult offenders suffer from a disorder called “hebophilia” which, in plain English, means a sexual attraction to adolescents.

Interestingly, though, such disorders are rarely mentioned when a male teacher is on trial. That’s because according to Louis Schlesinger of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a double standard exists in our society.

Matthew Felling of the Center for Media and Public Affairs says that a male teacher accused of inappropriate behavior is often labeled as a beast, while the female teacher is simply thought to be mentally ill.

Schlesinger explains the double standard by saying that for a young boy to be seduced by a female teacher is considered by many to be a “rite of passage” – the boy is envied by men of all ages for being lucky enough to have sex with a great looking older woman.

But aside from the double standard controversy, a number of other collateral issues have arisen during this epidemic of student/teacher sex, among them:

Is the adult solely to blame and ultimately responsible?

Should consensual sex with an older youth be considered statutory rape?

Is inappropriate behavior the same as child abuse?

What reform is needed to stem the tide of school sex?

To further complicate the probability of nationwide uniform reform, in many states it is not even a crime for a school employee to have sex with a student aged 16 or older.

And what to do about whistle-blowing students and parents who now want justice (and money) years after the affairs took place?

According to the Heartland Institute, 4.5 million public school students (roughly 1 in 10) say they have experienced unacceptable sexual behavior by a school employee, but oftentimes what is later reported as unacceptable was originally consensual.

Judge Bob Wattles of Florida is on a crusade to stop student/teacher sex altogether. In fact, he is planning a statewide speaking tour of schools so he can warn teachers of the consequences of their amorous actions. Wattles, who has been tough on offending teachers in his courtroom, is not entirely unsympathetic to the temptations and false charges they sometimes face. Says Wattles, “It’s not always the teacher stalking the student… these kids can be very aggressive.”

Let’s be clear. It is wrong for any adult to have sex with any minor. But today, most incidents of school sex involve students who are between 15 and 18 years old, and that brings me to the parents.

If you have a 16- or 17-year-old child you must come out of your denial. These kids are either already having sex or planning to do so as soon as they can find a willing partner. And those who aren’t engaged in either still know how to flirt, seduce and tease. So deal with it. Monitor how they dress, who they hang out with, what movies they watch, what clubs they go to. Set curfews and enforce them. Never let your teenager spend time that is unaccounted for. Know where he or she is every hour of every day so long as they live under your roof. If you as a parent fail to do these things, then you have very little credibility in my book when you seek to imprison a teacher for having consensual sex with your 17-year-old child who might have initiated the act to begin with because you didn’t do your job.

Again, any teacher who has sex with a student is sick and should never be allowed to teach again. And those who have sex with any child under 16 should go to jail for a very long time.  Beyond that, the debate and the law gets a bit fuzzy and inconsistent. And so it is up to parents to guide, educate and monitor their nearly adult children.

Meanwhile, here’s my advice for you would-be hebophiles who work in the public schools, but haven’t yet acted on your sick impulses: Find another line of work now, get some counseling and have sex with someone your own age.

It may sound contrary to what the government requires these days, but I’m asking these sicko teachers to leave every child behind, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Jim Longworth is host of “Triad Today,” which can be seen Friday mornings at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7), and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on MY48 (cable channel 15).