Mary Kay Letourneau didn’t invent it, but she was probably the first school teacher to hit our radar for having sex with her middle-school student.
Since then, it’s become a news trope: attractive 20- to 30-something teacher gets caught in a “romantic relationship” with a student. Often a kid who just barely grew out of action figures or American Girl dolls.
And by “romantic relationship,” of course, I mean vile sexual abuse that disguises itself in the eyes of the perpetrator as consensual acts between peers.
And now another teacher is added to the list, accused of having sex with a 13-year-old sixth-grader.
Except this time, it’s my school district.
Where my son is also a sixth-grader.
Even as I write this post, I’m struggling to come up with words that are intelligent, pithy and offer any kind of insight. Or are even coherent.
Because all I’m getting is a primal howl of frustration and anger that anyone, especially a teacher entrusted with the care and instruction of vulnerable, trusting and yet-unformed human beings, would do this.
I struggle to imagine the kind of barren moral landscape that would allow this kind of behavior to flourish.
And I grieve for a child who has been deceived into participating in abuse disguised as love. This will take years — perhaps decades or a lifetime — to sort out.
And the damage will taint countless relationships and opportunities not yet imagined.
But I don’t have answers.
What I do have is a son. A sixth-grader. A little boy taking baby steps into adolescence.
He has his first date tonight. The girl is another sixth-grader. It’s sweet. She asked him to the school dance.
Last night we talked to him about how he shouldn’t ditch her if his friends want to hang out and how he should say something nice about her outfit.
And when he gets home, we’ll ask about the dance. And whether he hung out with her and complimented her shoes.
Then we’ll talk about consent.
I know he hates it when his mom talks about sex.
But it isn’t just a one-and-done conversation.
It started when he was a pre-schooler and the baby-sitter’s dog had puppies.
This time we’ll talk about how kids can NEVER consent to sex with adults. And how if anyone tries to say this other boy is lucky that he got to have sex with a hot teacher, he should shut that down.
It isn’t likely that he’ll have questions (he’ll mostly just quietly pray for it to end), but if he does, we’ll answer them as honestly as we can.
I can’t control the world.
I can’t completely shield my child from monsters who blend in with the good people.
But maybe I can arm him with facts.
I can also follow these five tips for spotting teacher misconduct.
It doesn’t seem like much.
But it’s the best I can do.
I hope it’s enough.
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