hot for teacher vs. burn the witch
jeff rants about the line between protecting students and running sexy teachers out of town
by jeffrey d. walker
I don't know where sex fantasies about school teachers started, but I know they exist. Tracey Cox, author of several sexual advice books, once wrote about "That lurid reverie about your primary school teacher and raspberry jelly". I could also point you to at least three hardcore pornography websites dedicated solely to the topic of teacher / student sex, though I won't do it.
Then there are real-life examples. The first one that comes to mind is Mary Kay Letourneau, attractive even in her mugshot taken in 1997 when she was arrested for statutory rape after having sex with a student. When they started their affair, she was 34 and he was 12; she became pregnant by him at 35; and after going to jail, getting out, and being sent back when caught with him again, she ultimately married him.
A couple of years before her arrest, Letourneau may have seen one of Nicole Kidman's best movies, To Die For, about real-life New Hampshire teacher, Pamela Smart, convicted in 1991 for conspiring with her 15-year-old student / lover to murder her husband. Sure, that was a murder conspiracy and not just teacher-on-student sex, so maybe Letourneau missed the "don't have sex with your students" message.
But she isn't the only one. I present to you: The 50 Most Infamous Female Teacher Sex Scandals, courtesy of zimbo.com. That's the most infamous list, not even a complete list. Besides Letourneau, cult-status favorites include Debra Lafave, Pamela Rogers Turner, Carrie McCandless, and Teresa Englebach, any of whom your straight male children probably would have slept with given the opportunity.
And like the pornography websites dedicated to teacher/student sex, there is at least one blog devoted to real-life teacher / student sex.
But that doesn't make it right.
Believe me: this is not a piece condoning teacher-on-student sex in any way, shape or form. Fantasy is one thing; actual sexual contact / sexting / or other stuff going on between an underage student and a teacher is something else. It's the teacher breaking the law! I think it's pretty clear, a school employee acting sexually inappropriate with students should not be allowed to work with them.
But then, there's going to far.
What about a teacher who poses in a bikini for a calendar and a website? Should she be asked to resign?
Meet Erica Chevillar, a former 10th grade history teacher at West Boca Raton High School in Florida. Erica "... was featured in two dozen photos ranging from wearing jackets that revealed some cleavage to some skimpy bikini poses. They were the same type of photos that you would find in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition."
Sexy, yes. Nude, no. Also, not one allegation of sharing the photos with kids, and certainly not one allegation of her trying to have any sexual contact with them (though probably not for lack of student attempt). Nonetheless, she was apparently drummed out of her teaching job once school officials found out. Sure, she technically resigned, but no one can argue it was under pressure. And certainly that pressure arose simply because she posed in a bikini.
Don't necessarily feel bad for Erica. She has gone on to compete in the WWE Diva Search, and posed in Playboy. But still; when a person has the credentials, desire, and capability to teach, why shouldn't that person be able to appear in public in a bikini?
Take also for example, Florida biology teacher Tiffany Shepherd, who was allegedly "fired over her bikini photos on the Smoking Em boat charter website." [Link also contains examples]. Tiffany was "a 30-year-old single mom, [who] made $600 for two days of bikini-clad work aboard the Smoking Em, which is more than she made in a week teaching biology."
A teacher working on a charter boat, even in a bikini, seems like an outrageous reason to be fired. We all know teachers aren't paid enough. It's like punishing her for trying to better her family.
Of course, the school claimed that Tiffany "... wasn't fired over her sexy bikini photos on the charter boat website, but rather missing too many days of teaching school."
Maybe. Tiffany has since done a scene for one of the teacher / student pornography websites.
Perhaps the concern is someone actually getting paid to be in a bikini while being a teacher at the same time; not that I agree with that concern, but just saying. So, what if you went on a morning radio show and were in a bikini? Should you have to quit?
Meet Marie Jarry, former second grade teacher at Thalberg Elementary School in Southington, Connecticut, who appeared in a bikini on the Howard Stern Radio Show. The appearance was also edited and broadcast on late night cable television. Jarry says she was later forced to resign due to that appearance. Parents at the school said they "can't believe she would go on TV and do that when she is a second-grade teacher... It just doesn't make sense."
So maybe Stern is a bit much. But what about this one: Tamara Hoover, an art teacher who was forced to resign from her position at Austin High School in Texas... for allegedly being the subject of explicit photos that had been posted on Flickr, a public photograph sharing website in 2006.
Hoover submitted a resignation letter after pressure for her to leave, and received a settlement from the school district of several months' salary. The district reported that they believe "...strongly in an individual's right of free expression, but as we all know, such rights are not absolute... The district and Ms. Hoover disagreed as to the propriety of explicit nude photographs... and its impact on students and families, and thus, on Ms. Hoover's ability to be an appropriate role model and effective classroom teacher in AISD"
Hoover said she's sad about the outcome but will focus on moving forward. "I wasn't prepared to stop teaching. I never wanted to resign from teaching. I don't think this is the most ideal outcome."
Hoover was not working another job in a bikini, and not on a controversial radio show in one. She was in some photos someone put on flickr. Plus, I have a statement that she actually wanted to continue teaching. I have nobody questioning her ability to teach, or discussing her success / failure in the classroom; I just have a clear dislike of her being in suggestive photos. But as one supported noted, "Art comes in different forms and her being an art teacher, this is a form of art, and so I think that the school should recognize that".
Doesn't an art teacher making art in the real world make for a good role model?
To me, each of the above examples seem really unfair in that these teachers should have been forced to make any decision regarding work and their acts occurring outside of school, all of which were completely legally. But I think it also seems unfair for the students. A good teacher is good for students. A dare say that for some students, a smart, attractive, interesting, and /or vivacious teacher might be the only thing that actually entices them to attend class.
Why stamp out a bright teacher for being "sexy" outside of the classroom?
But maybe it's too much because these events are happening in and around the same time frame as the person is engaged in a teaching position. So, if people aren't willing to overlook a teacher's contemporary choices in life (i.e., no teaching and being seen wearing a bikini or artistically nude at the same time), what about forgiving past choices?
Louisa C. Tuck, arguably better known as Crystal Gunns, was a former pornographic actress who "reportedly left the adult industry in 2003." She was working in a school cafeteria in 2008, when her former career came to light. Though "she wasn't penalized professionally, it seemed the attention was too much and she resigned."
She was described by one parent as "an excellent role model". I haven't found anything stating she did a bad job. She was simply forced out because of her past and her proximity to children.
Former porn-star lunch lady too much? What about if someone unintentionally exposes students to porn?
Meet former Connecticut teacher Julie Amero, who, accused of showing porn to students, "... accepted a misdemeanor plea deal to avoid felony charges, despite proof of her innocence."
What proof you ask? "those in the IT security community vehemently backed Amero, contending she should have been exonerated because the machine was infected. The defense claimed the images repeatedly popped up and couldn't be turned off, the result of badware installed on a class PC that was running the Windows 98 operating system and expired anti-spyware solutions at the time of the 2004 incident. ... a team of IT security experts analyzed a copy of the hard drive... and discovered an adware program known as "New.Net," which inadvertently had been installed on the machine as part of a Halloween screensaver bundle. ... On Oct. 19, 2004, when Amero typed "new hairstyles" into the address bar and because the adware program had been installed she was directed to a page of bogus search results... She clicked on one, which led to the porn pop-ups."
As a result of an alleged porn-pop-up ad, Amero agreed to give up her teaching license, and paid a $100 fine.
And kids lost another teacher.
As I said, people actually having sex with underage students shouldn't be around students. What concerns me is that, there seems to be a problem with stripping (no pun intended) persons who wear bikinis, who go on radio shows, who make suggestive art, or who accidentally expose students in any way to porn, from working with students.
I have a problem about this for a lot of reasons: a person's right to do what they want; the fact that some people need second jobs; artistic freedom, and Freedom of Speech arguments; the list goes on!
But let's cut to the chase: as I figure, a person who wouldn't want a "sexy teacher" working with their kids is obviously morally opposed to such "sexy" behavior. The "offended" parent is clearly worried that the kids may act in the same "sexy" manner. Assuming this, I now ask the second question:
Does removing the "sexy" teacher achieve the intended result of kids not acting sexy?
The answer is no. Kids will learn about acting "sexy" whether you want them to or not. Half the younger set of Hollywood stars are posing nude or else are involved in some scandal. And so on and so forth; it's the way of Hollywood. And even the Supreme Court won't enforce a law designed to restrict access by minors to material defined as harmful on the Internet.
So, given these influences, do you think kids are more likely to learn that sex scandals are harmful by watching E!, MTV, and the like; or, from meeting the former porn star turned school lunch-lady, and the bikini model teacher that's still dragging-ass back into the classroom on Monday morning just to make ends meet?
Just a thought. You might want to keep a few teachers along the way who have made one or two mistakes, so that maybe your kids may learn from them.
A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.
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katherine (aka clevertitania)
11.20.09 @ 9:54a
Love your style of making your points, but even more impressed by the points themselves. This new wave of vilifying sexuality in all forms has been heavy on my mind lately as well. In some ways it feels like we've taken two steps back.
11.20.09 @ 12:24p
Thanks for the complement. I think of myself as a male feminist, but think it's hard to be taken seriously in that way when (in this case) the subject matter involves a woman's right to act in a way that some people find is a negative representation for women. But, a sexy woman is empowering herself, and I don't think a woman should have to explain herself for being sexy. On the contrary, I support it. But some might say that makes me a pig. If so, "oink."
11.20.09 @ 12:41p
Oh boy. There are so many ways to go with this, so I'm going to try to stay simple.
Sex education, presented in a healthy, nonjudgemental, enlightening way, is rarely found in schools in the U.S. And few parents feel truly comfortable explaining sex to their children, which is really sad. A partnership between these two factions is long overdue.
However, there are some professions that require a certain level of morality accepted by the baseline of the majority. Teachers are in that category, and it's no secret. And in most municipalities, their salaries are paid for by the public, so, sorry, the public has a little more say about teachers' behavior than in other professions.
There's not a conservative, frigid plot against only sexy teachers: it is a standard by which all teachers, male and female, have to follow. If you don't want to be held to that level of scrutiny, choose another profession.
Without this morality baseline, how can anyone say it's wrong for a teacher to diddle an "underage" student? We all know that sexuality blossoms at around age 12 or 13...but someone set the "legal" sex age at 18. Why not just toss that standard out the window, too?
Easing children gently into the world and through various levels of maturity is the responsibility of adults. Of course there would be parents offended by a teacher - who spends more time with the children in the general course of a day than the parents do - observed as not holding up the basic moral tenets of the profession, as well as the caretaking trust parents place in the profession.
What you do in the privacy of your bedroom is your business. But, if you choose to make those actions public, you willingly expose everyone to that business, and you have to accept the fact that many might not accept it.
There's also the pyschology of it all. Go ahead. Be proud of your sexuality. But expecting everyone to like what you do is like forcefeeding someone beets. You like beets! Why shouldn't EVERYONE like beets! Here - eat some beets - let me just pry your mouth open and we'll go from there.
Most people who set out to purposefully be provocative don't really have a grand agenda to educate people about healthy sexuality. They just want the attention.
11.20.09 @ 2:30p
Tracey: First, this isn't about sex education. That's an entirely different can of worms I shall not open here. Second; I agree that these teachers probably don't have a "... grand agenda to educate people about healthy sexuality." The teachers aren't trying to teach anything about sex to students; they have not introduced the issue at all to students. It was parents / administration officials who in each case raised a sex issue by way of pointing to a legal act by a teacher performed outside of work.
Third, that "the public has a little more say about teachers' behavior than in other professions" doesn't fly with me. Since teachers are employed by government entities usually, they often have more rights to retain their employment as compared to private non-contract employees, who can generally be fired at will. Besides that, even if parents did have more say over the employment of teachers, when those parents are infringing on the individual rights of that teacher, I do not agree.
This is all about how a teacher may behave outside of class.
What if a teacher smokes outside of class, or has a beer? Or goes gambling at casinos? Any f those activities could be harmful if the kids see it and think its ok. Should teachers who drink, smoke, or gamble be fired? No -- and arguably, those behaviors are far more harmful than bikini posing if the kids adopt it.
The issue is, people who are upset because a teacher is sexy, not for an agenda, not for education, but because that is how they live outside of class. And frankly, I don't care if a parents doesn't like that a teacher appears in a bikini outside of school. If that teacher isn't the one making it an issue in the classroom, then they shouldn't be penalized.
11.20.09 @ 4:24p
First - I completely understand these teachers aren't teaching sex ed. That wasn't my point.
-If sex education was a more accepted topic in the school systems, that means the populace as a whole is open-minded about the topic overall. However, that is not the current state of mind in this country. But bikini-clad teachers -will not- change that perception, and it's myopic for someone to think that it will.
-The psychology and reasoning for exhibitionism is something that can't be explained in a standard setting. Without a healthy adaptation of sexuality by the populace, the lines of morality will ebb and flow at will. The profession dictates the rationale, and probably is graduated by grade level. High school teacher in a bikini - maybe not so bad. 3rd grade teacher in a bikini - bigger problem.
It's also hard to quantify that behavior outside of the workplace doesn't affect the person. And that was my point about the public having more say in the behavior of public employees. We shouldn't care that a governor or congressman diddles outside of marriage, and yet these circumstances continue to be the downfall of many a politico. Why? Because the exhibition raises a question of morality and character. It's not so much the sex - it's the crossing of a boundary within the public view.
Your points of drinking, smoking and gambling are exactly the same point I'm trying to make - many adminstrators and teachers have been released based on these behaviors, because in the education setting, the excess is seen as crossing a moral boundary. Again, no one has a problem with a sexy teacher - but since the sexy teacher chooses public display as a forum, the teacher is open to ridicule and examination.
The point that the teacher "is sexy" is completely subjective. A heterosexual male may find the bikini-clad teacher sexy and non-offensive, but a homosexual male might not, and have a child in the class and be offended. It would appear that the main point of arguement here is that a bunch of prudish, low libido mothers are threatened by the "sexy" teacher, when in fact, they just don't want their children to be exposed to sex in that manner.
Certain professions have a particular code of conduct that is expected as a societal measure. Is it always followed? Of course not - otherwise fat doctors would lose their licenses.
11.20.09 @ 4:32p
And before you come back with it (I know you very well :D) I've never heard any of my teacher friends talk about their contracts outlining, specifically, extracurricular activities that may result in firing. Except for the big ones: drug taking, stealing, etc. No mention of sex.
Nor in my work for the state's teachers' union did the subject of extracurricular activities relating to sexual activity ever come up, unless it directly impacted a student.
And that's the key: responsibility to the students, and how a teacher's behavior as a whole person impacted his or her ability in the classroom. So the education system has its code, and most within that system seem pretty comfortable with it.
So does posing sexy lessen a teacher's ability to teach? There's no psychology to oppose or support the theory. But the teachers' code seems pretty clear: if your student saw you walking down the street, what image do you want to them to see? Those who are willing to accept that code are the ones that we don't read about or see on the Internet.
11.22.09 @ 1:26p
I've read about Ms. Amero's case before. Her main "sin" was having a crap computer with an out-of-date operating system and a virtually unprotected Internet connection in her classroom; and not enough experience in knowing what to do when the inevitable happened and porn popup adware showed up all over it.
I've worked with the technologically challenged before, and quite simply, they panic when a machine they never really trusted to begin with goes berserk. It's completely understandable, too. I've been asked by friends on many occasions to help disinfect an infected computer, so I've seen it firsthand. Some of the malware out there just boggles the mind.
In her case, she was afflicted with a triple whammy - America's post-Victorian prudishness, the inability of the American court system to understand computer issues, and the zero-tolerance attitude that eliminates personal judgment and turns even minor infractions into causes for the Spanish Inquisition.
11.22.09 @ 5:56p
Maybe this has something to do with the uproar - a teacher friend found this for me:
"According to a major 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education - the most authoritative investigation to date - nearly 10 percent of U.S. public school students have been targeted with unwanted sexual attention by school employees, and in those cases, 40 percent of the perpetrators were women.
Titled "Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature" by Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Charol Shakeshaft, the report brought to light staggering statistics.
Compare the numbers with the much-publicized Catholic Church scandal.
A study by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops concluded 10,667 young people were sexually mistreated by priests between 1950 and 2002.
Shakeshaft's study, however, estimates that roughly 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse by a public school employee between 1991 and 2000 alone."
My teacher friend also said that all teachers she knew are required to take continuing ed classes in child safety, a large portion of which is dedicated to protection from child predators.
I cited the examples in this article to her, and while she feels that the poor teacher with an Internet problem was unfairly hung out to dry, "notice the teachers who moved on to porn after being forced out of their teaching careers. They may have wanted to teach at some point, but they wanted to do porn more. You don't just say, 'Oh well, I can't be a teacher - guess I'll do porn now.'"