WRIGHT WAY: Teacher-student relationships
Feb 15, 2012 | 4381 views | 0 0 comments | 88 88 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An article in Education Week titled, “Lingering Shame: Sexual Abuse of Students by School Employees,” stated, “Most of America’s educators are dedicated professionals who wouldn’t dream of crossing the line into sexual conduct with a student. But a small slice of school employees do not respect that boundary.”

That “small slice of school employees” is making headlines month after month unlike anything experienced in the history of this country. Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is just one of numerous cases making headlines. Attractive female teachers seducing their younger students make up the most sensationalized cases today.

Regarding the harm inflicted by sexually abusive teachers, the online article went on to say, “Their crimes can leave indelible scars on their victims, severely damage families, and cause lasting harm to entire school communities. How to recognize and combat the threat posed by such educators is an issue that no education policymaker, administrator, teacher or parent can afford to ignore.”

In a world where females are as likely to compromise a student’s morals as are males, parents are being called upon to take a more active role in the relationship their child might develop with a teacher. Experts say open communication is the key. When it comes to your child, curiosity is a good thing.

A 1998 article, “Sex With Students: When Employees Cross the Line,” warned, “It may start with a warm smile or an affectionate hug. But often, far more often than many people think, those friendly moments mask the first steps by a teacher or coach down the road that leads to sexual relations with their young charges and the shattering of a sacred trust.”

Just as disappointing as teachers cross this line is the occasional slap on the wrist by some authorities whose punishment for breaking this “sacred trust” is to allow the perpetrator to resign, relocate and continue teaching elsewhere.

In a seven-month investigation of sexual misconduct by teachers, The Associated Press discovered cases in which educators accused of such misconduct continued to teach.

Now, I certainly do not believe unproved accusations should be allowed to destroy a person’s career. But if evidence such as text messages suggest a teacher has exercised poor judgment in flirting with a student, is it asking too much for that person to seek a new career in a field that does not involve close contact with children?

Still, why are improper teacher-student relationships increasing? Is it because of the emphasis placed on sexual gratification in society? Could films that romanticize improper teacher-student relationships share the blame?

As mature adults we should realize the potential to become attracted to someone can cross age, race, gender, education or social status. If left unchecked, imperfect human beings can easily become their own worst enemy. The cause?

The Bible says at Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” — New World Translation.

The New Living Translation reads, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

Romantic feelings can become so desperate they can overpower reason, making even rational people act unwisely. We’ve seen this happen to psychiatrists, politicians and clergymen — people who knew better.

A teacher or student may exhibit certain emotional or psychological vulnerabilities and begin to doubt their own attractiveness, feeling a need to test themselves to satisfy some need. While the desire may be common, experts agree that violating boundaries in a trust-based relationship can quickly turn into a consuming nightmare.

No one believes a reputable teacher would deliberately set out to send shock waves through a school, a community, their own family and risk their good reputation and freedom over a few fleeting moments with a child or teenager. Yet many mature teachers sit in prison for exactly that.

Why did no one see it, suspect it or speak up before it went too far? Why did the teacher not create some distance and seek help at the first sign of emotional attachment? These are questions often asked too late.

Research shows that parental involvement in schools can improve students’ behavior, attendance and achievement. Perhaps it can help reduce the attraction that is causing some teachers to cross the line with students.

The first line of defense in fighting improper teacher-student relationships is the educators themselves. There is no sin in admitting you need help. After being honest about your feelings, follow the words of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.” — Good News Translation.