Maggie A's Meanderings




 Feb 24, 2013

Teacher - Student Sex
How Much Has Really Changed?

When I was a kid, maybe in junior high, a friend of mine who was in high school told me that she was sleeping with one of her teachers. When my friend told me about it she was utterly matter of fact. She was describing something that had happened in school, an interaction between her and the teacher where the relationship between the two of them was casually referenced in front of the entire class as everybody already knew about it. At the time I don't know what shocked me more.......
  1. That a teacher was having sex with a student.
  2. That the relationship was common knowledge around the school. 
  3. That no school officials did anything about it.
Growing up, this friend was my one trusted, older friend. She lived an adolescent life of drugs, sex (the teacher was not her only older man) and teen pregnancy. But despite what some parents might think --- that this was not the sort of person you'd want your young daughter around --- I found her to be a valuable friend. She was the one person I could ask questions of when I wanted to know something about drugs or sex. After all, she had experience. And she would answer honestly and forthrightly with no embarrassment. Now she never specifically encouraged me to do any of this behavior; she would simply tell about her experiences, both the positives and the negatives. In fact, I'll credit this friend for the reason I never even tried drugs, not even once, when it was a time when drug use was already commonplace. She told me she thought all the drugs she took had messed up her mind and she had memory problems from it. I figured the only thing I had going for me was my mind and I wasn't going to mess it up, so I never even experimented with drugs, making me one of a small minority in my generation.

So her telling me about having sex with a teacher.........the information was a surprise. That she told me was not a surprise.

My friend and I attended the same school system on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. So, in due course, I went onto the high school. And there I found myself living aspects of what my friend had told me. I'll grant the school administrators some leeway in phrasing it as it was widely rumored that one of the male teachers got male students drunk and had sex with them. (Nowadays, I recognize that sequence of events --- selection of a particular victim, giving the victim special attention and plying him with alcohol, all leading to the sex act as a common pattern of child molesters who "groom" victims. That type of molester averages 150 victims. And today I ask myself the question if there was a serial sexual predator teaching at my high school? If yes, how many boys were hurt?) I can't say that I knew those events definitively of my own knowledge --- no one even spoke to me and said it had happened to him. But the story was known around the school. And, as I had with my friend, I wondered yet again about the school administrators. These same administrators were obsessed with preventing cigarette smoking in the the extent the bathrooms were kept locked at all times except before class and during lunch when a teacher was assigned to sit in front of the bathroom and let only one student in at a time. (This was in a high school of over 500 students resulting in the fact that most of us had to hold it during the entire school day unless you were willing to sacrifice your lunch to stand in line to use the bathroom.) Obsessed with preventing smoking in the bathroom, but a teacher having sex with students, that was something they wouldn't do anything about?? The story was so pervasive there's no way I could believe the other teachers and administrators hadn't heard it. But I'd guess now that the other teachers took their cue from the principal and the principal ignored it; whether it was refusal to believe it or, like the Catholic Church, a practice of knowing it went on but just not doing anything about it, I don't know. I strongly suspect the latter. Teachers having sex with students is nothing new. I don't see someone reaching the level of principal without being aware of the fact.

But what particularly shocked me ---- given the climate of the time --- was the part of the story where this was a male teacher having sex with male students. Mississippi was not particularly accepting of homosexuality --- more the opposite. Mississippi is the Bible Belt ----- meaning it had the Bible Belt's mix of hypocrisy and intolerance. I could maybe see a male teacher having sex with a female student being ignored, but if a male teacher was having sex with male students, I could see all hell breaking loose among the parents if that news got out. So, back then, I could not understand why the administration wouldn't take action over anything so potentially explosive. (I was only a high school student and this was before the whole Catholic Church sex scandal first broke open nationwide. So, at the time, I was unaware of the institution of institutional cover-up.)

And if anyone is thinking that this teacher was unfairly targeted because of homosexuality and, being Mississippi, homosexuals were automatically equated with diddling boys, there was another teacher in the high school who was widely assumed to be gay. (Though it's not like the teacher ever publicly said he was gay.) Certainly the students I knew thought this teacher was gay. But there was never a breath of rumor about this teacher and boys. Never a hint that this teacher ever did anything inappropriate. He was a respected teacher. So the stories about the other teacher weren't some homophobic reaction.

High school was a long time ago for me, but I was recently reminded of the whole situation when I saw the following news story on an Alabama TV station just across the state line from where I live..............

Since I don't know how long that video will be available, I'll include a transcript of the parts relevant to my experience. It's from a Tuesday, Feb 19, 2013, broadcast from WKRG in Mobile, Alabama. "A female teacher at Mary G. Montgomery High School accused of having sex with a male student. Officials at the Sheriff's Office said they got a call from school administrators Monday alerting them of the situation. And school authorities had apparently known about the relationship for some time; the teacher had already been placed on leave before investigators got involved. And some students say the relationship was known around campus." It goes on to quote a student saying, "I've known about it for some time."

Here we have a very similar situation to what my friend told me happened with her and with what was rumored to have happened when I went to high school ---------- a teacher having sex with a student while other students were aware of the relationship. But the difference is this wasn't many years ago. It was 2013. Yet even today, after all the sex abuse scandals, when it's the law in Alabama that teachers and school officials must report child abuse, the school administrators still did not immediately report the situation to law enforcement. What their reason was for the delay I don't know. And, in the end, the teacher was reported. But the whole situation doesn't just remind me of what happened all those years ago at that Mississippi high school, it makes me wonder what's going on today at that Mississippi high school and at other high schools.
After my experience in Mississippi, where this student was aware that it was wrong for teachers to have sex with students while the administration apparently was not aware it was wrong or not aware enough to do anything about it, it makes me wonder how much of it is going on today. How many cases of teachers having sex with students while school administrators look the other way........until the situation reaches the point they can't anymore?

April 14, 2013 Update: A friend of mine from Mississippi was visiting me and told me about Hiram Jay Coker, a drama teacher at Hancock County High School, Mississippi who was just charged with sexual battery of one of his students. Coker had been a teacher at the school for fourteen years, and I have to wonder how long he's been (allegedly) doing it. If what happened in my high school is any basis for comparison then it was going on for a long time before anything was done about it.

cartoon of school policy of teacher-student sex

For more about growing up in Mississippi, read "Ingloriously A Bastard? Mississippi and Miscegenation"

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