Recent news reports indicate that America’s schools are filled with sexual predators. What’s so frightening is that a lot of those predators are teaching our children.
A typical example is Michelle Hanson, a special education teacher from Corona, California, near Riverside. On Aug. 13, she was charged with having sex with five different underage boys. The sex occurred in the classroom, the school utility room, her car, and one of her victim’s homes.
Hanson’s behavior was particularly outrageous; she apparently rewarded a student for doing well in a baseball game with sex. She also sent sexually explicit texts (“sexts”) and pictures of herself in her underwear to students.
Another case involves Neal Erickson, a middle school teacher from the small town of Rose City, Michigan. Erickson plead guilty to having a sexual relationship with a male student. Erickson’s case deeply divided the small town because six teachers actually sent letters supporting him to a court.
Epidemic of Teacher Predators
As anybody who has been watching the news in recent months knows, these cases are simply the tip of the iceberg. There have been dozens of such cases in recent years all over the United States. It seems to be happening all over the place in big cities, suburbs, and small towns.
So what’s causing it? Is it our sexually charged society, promiscuity, or the media’s celebration of sex? That is difficult to say, but such relationships are a growing problem, and they are not a laughing matter.
Teachers that have sex with students are preying on them whether the relationship is consensual or not. Educators involved in such a relationship are abusing their power and doing psychological damage to students.
What’s really outrageous is that schools usually don’t take action against such teachers until criminal complaints are filed. Teacher predators often keep their jobs because of the rules that govern the profession. Unions and fellow teachers often come to the defense of predatory educators.
Unions Protect Predatory Teachers
A horrendous example is Thomas Gibbons, a special education teacher in New York City’s public schools. Gibbons was arrested for having sex with a nine-year-old girl in New Jersey in 2012.
What’s really outrageous was that Gibbons had been allowed to keep his teaching job after threatening a 15-year-old student with a gun at William H. Taft High School in the Bronx. Gibbons had threatened the student and thrown her into the wall because she had tried to break off a sexual relationship with him. School investigators even had a tape of Gibbons trying to talk a girl out of not pressing charges against him.
Yet an arbitrator let Gibbons keep his job as a teacher, despite the evidence. In New York City, school officials don’t have the power to fire tenured teachers like Gibbons. Instead, they have to appeal to an arbitrator appointed by a teacher’s union; the arbitrators almost always rule on behalf of the teachers, even predatory ones.
Teachers Defend Their Own
New York is a horrendous example, but as the case in Rose City, Michigan demonstrated, teachers all over the country try to stand up for their predator colleagues. To its credit, the school board in Rose City is contemplating action against the teachers who tried to defend the predator Neal Erickson. The board may have a hard time doing anything because the teachers are protected by the First Amendment.
Some residents in Rose City are also trying to recall school board member Mike Eagan, who also defended Erickson. Eagan actually sat in the courtroom with Erickson’s family when he was sentenced to prison.
Yet as the Gibbons case proves, teacher predators can be a serious threat to students and can turn violent. Such predators are a threat to students even if unions defend them.
Protecting Your Children from Predatory Teachers
The best way to protect your children from predators in the classroom is to carefully monitor their relationships with teachers. Watch for inappropriate behavior; for example, a student spending far too much time with a teacher or a student lying about the time he or she spends with an educator.
Look at teachers’ behavior to watch for inappropriate dress, immature behavior, and showing too much interest in the kids’ activities. Be especially leery if kids start texting, phoning, or emailing teachers. That can quickly get out of hand and lead to serious problems.
If you think something is wrong, the first step to take is to come out and ask the child. Also make sure that your children know such relationships are wrong and that they should tell you even if it involves somebody else.
Listen to your kids’ conversations too, and get concerned if you hear about a sexual relationship between a teacher and a student or inappropriate behavior. Generally, many, if not most, of a victim’s classmates are aware of such a relationship.
What to Do About a Teacher Predator
Dealing with a teacher predator can be tough. Yes, you should tell school authorities, but do not stop there. Sex between underage teenagers and adults is statutory rape, which is a crime.
Make sure that you notify the police if you believe a teacher is having a sexual relationship with an underage student. Don’t rely upon school authorities to go to the cops; go yourself and tell a detective your suspicions. If you have any evidence of such a relationship, turn it over to the police yourself; don’t give it to school authorities.
Note: It would be a good idea to keep a record of such evidence in case police don’t take action. In most cases, police will take action, but you never know.
If police don’t want to take action, consider contacting your local prosecutor, usually called the District Attorney. Prosecutors can investigate on their own and bring charges without the police.
Something to remember is that some school administrators are more interested in their reputations than student welfare. Such individuals might try to cover up a teacher predator’s behavior to keep it from damaging their careers.
Another step to consider is alerting the media to such goings on. If police and prosecutors don’t take action, consider going to a reporter. If you do contact the media, try calling the daily newspaper and the TV stations in the nearest big city.
Many small town papers are afraid to go after local authorities. A big city reporter, on the other hand, may aggressively investigate in order to get a scoop and attract national attention. Media attention will often motivate police, school authorities, and prosecutors to take action against a predator.
Teacher predators are not a joke; they are a growing problem that threatens our children’s futures. It is time we took serious action to get them out of the classroom and into the prison yard where they belong.