Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teacher's sextracurricular activities

Ah, for the days when I knew my teacher was interested in my academic progress, and not what was in my pants!

I asked a question a few months ago, whether it was my imagination or whether there was more sexual contact between teachers and students in my home state of Utah. There seemed to be because of some high-profile cases that came out of the blue, all of them involving female teachers with young male students. At the time I surmised it could be because those stories were more unusual than the "typical" male teacher-female student sex cases.

It turns out I am partially right in my assessment of more sex in Utah schools, at least statistically. A copyrighted article in The Salt Lake Tribune for Sunday, October 25, 2009, confirms that of all the 50 states Utah has the highest percentage of teachers lose their licenses for reasons relating to sex. A pie-chart is shown, titled "Why Utah teachers lost their licenses, 1992-2009." Drug-related charges accounted for 11.1%, other offenses, including theft were 22.2% (hmmm, exactly double that of the drug offenses), and a whopping 66.7% were for sexual misconduct, including pornography.

Some reasons are given: better reporting, more victims come forward, less "sweeping under the rug," etc. The cases may even be underrreported. I'll bet there are some teachers who have officially lost their licenses for other reasons when the root cause is a sex problem because they took some sort of deal with their human resources director.

In 32 1/2 years working for a large school district I never saw any sexual misconduct. I visited 32 schools a day which meant I was in and out pretty fast. Occasionally I'd hear a story about someone, but mostly I heard about teachers' sex problems like everyone else, when I read about them in the newspaper.

Kindly and helpful...or dirty old man?

There might be other reasons that would be hard to pin down, but since speculation is free I'll give you my free analysis:

Since Utah is 60% Latter-day Saints (Mormon), there are a lot of contacts, even at school, that take on a religious overtone. Like the infamous cases of predatory Catholic priests and victimized children, some Utah children may be victimized because they are obedient. I don't believe LDS people as a rule are any more sex offenders than any other group, but the LDS church is made up of a lay clergy, not paid, who work at everyday jobs. That includes teachers. Sometimes in Utah the line between religious and secular authority gets blurred. It's been proven over and over again some Mormon people in Utah are overly trusting of people they perceive as sharing their faith. Some faithful people get conned out of their money by fellow Mormons, and I'm sure some young people get conned out of their innocence, too.

For many years I think there was a "don't ask don't tell" policy that went on in schools, where trusted teachers, even if suspected, weren't confronted with inappropriate relationships. When I noticed the times changing was in the early 1980s when a teacher of the year was taken out of his classroom and arrested for having sex with a boy of 11. The idea that an adult would have sex--or want to have sex--with children was foreign to me. I was naïve, but then when everyone seemed to catch on there was a national wave of hysteria which resulted in innocent people being accused of molesting children. That's a whole other topic, but it made any school district employees, like me, very aware of how they acted around children.

The sad truth is that if people are sexually attracted to underage children then they go where they can be with them. That would include scouting, church youth activities, or teaching. What better way for a pedophile to find them than to be around a whole group of potential victims? It doesn't mean that every person who works in those fields is a pedophile, it just means that pedophiles would find that line of work attractive. I'm guessing that nationwide, or even worldwide, adults in positions of trust having sex with children may be one of the least reported crimes.

One startling bit of information popped out at me from the aforementioned newspaper article. Quoting the article: "Criminal screenings are far from foolproof, as many offenders escape notice and have otherwise clean histories," said Victor Vieth, executive director of the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona, Minn.

"One study looked at the histories of 561 sex offenders and found they accounted for 195,000 victims," he said. "you could sexually abuse hundreds, even thousands of children and have only a 3 percent chance of being caught."

If that statistic is true, then people looking for victims would have a 97% chance of not getting caught, which makes the cases that do come to our attention rare. Maybe it's led us to believe the problem isn't pervasive or as big as it really is.

No comments: