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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Opinion

Hot for student: Male students overlooked as victims


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Texas leads with the highest number of inappropriate teacher-student relationships in the nation, bringing attention to gender perceptions and expectations.  |  Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

With hormones raging, it might be seen as normal for teenage boys fantasize about a forbidden sexual relationship with their teacher. When this fantasy comes true, the consequences reveal a disturbing leniency society shows toward such actions.

A news release from the Texas Education Agency reported that in the past three years, the number of cases of teachers — a female-dominated profession — having inappropriate sexual relationships with students has risen from 141 incidents in the 2009-2010 academic year to 179 incidents in the 2013-2014 academic year.

ABC13 reported that Texas has the highest number of these cases in the nation. The state’s three-year increase is more than the total number of reported cases in Pennsylvania this year, which has the second-highest number at 37.

The actions of these still relatively few teachers not only betray the trust of students and parents but also damage the reputation of all other teachers. It undermines the effort done by caring, hard-working teachers that are simply striving to create a comfortable learning atmosphere for students.

After a recent case of a sexual teacher-student relationship surfaced at Pasadena High School, Pasadena ISD Associate Superintendent Renea Ivy told KHOU 11 News that it is for these reasons the charges should be taken seriously.

“When an educator violates the trust of a student, it makes it difficult for the majority of teachers who genuinely care for the safety and well-being of students,” Ivy said.

ABC13’s examination discovered that the prevalence of teacher-student sex cases in Texas might be due to the lenient punishment teachers often receive.

It was found that in 60 percent of these cases, teachers were let off with deferred adjudication, a plea deal in which the teacher has to give up their teaching certification and be put on probation — but the teacher won’t receive a prison sentence or be forced to register as a sex offender. That even included teachers who had sex with students 16 and younger, considered sexual assault as opposed to the lesser charge of statutory rape for sex with minors older than 16.

Disproving the notion that female teachers get lighter sentences than their male counterparts, the results of ABC13’s investigation reported generally little difference in the sentencing of male and female teachers charged with having sex with students. Rather, teachers across the board were offered plea deals in exchange for jail time.

Supply chain logistics junior Faizan Ahmed said he thinks there is an unfair difference in the public perceptions of men and women teachers charged with statutory rape of a student.

“It’s definitely a double standard when it comes to when it’s a male teacher and a female student than a female teacher and male student, and I don’t think they should be treated differently,” Ahmed said. “If you change the genders and it was a male teacher and the female student was completely willing, no one would look at it the same way.”

This is exemplified by the public response to cases such as that of Megan Mahoney’s, a former Staten Island gym teacher. A picture of the 24-year-old in a bra and underwear accompanied some articles, and the online reaction focused on the teacher’s attractiveness and the 16-year-old boy’s assumed willingness.

Ahmed said that he thinks even in cases where the student appears willing; the teacher should still be held accountable.

“In that situation, there may have been no force. Every party was probably willing, but even so, as a teacher you have a responsibility to maintain a certain standard towards your students,” Ahmed said. “Yeah, he was probably bragging. He probably was completely for it … but as the teacher, she needs to have a code of moral conduct.”

The comments on social media have often been of envy or congratulations for the student, ignoring the fact that males can be rape victims and trivializing the teacher’s criminal actions.

As a minor, he cannot legally consent, as most adolescents lack the emotional maturity to enter into a sexual relationship with an adult; sex between an adult and a minor is statutory rape, no matter the circumstances. Mahoney was in a position of authority and took advantage of her student, when she should have been the more mature and responsible one.

Biology junior Kim Gresak said she thinks that the parents of minors are the ones who should determine what is appropriate for their child.

“I think the parents step in, because they’re like ‘No. That’s not right. Your teacher shouldn’t be doing that,’” Gresak said. “So it could’ve been consensual, but (the students are) still under their parents’ guardianship, so it’s … their parents’ decision.”

The trivializing response condones her actions, and this, along with the lenient punishment of such behavior, shows exactly why incidences of teachers having inappropriate sexual relationships in students continue to occur.

 

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