A judge in Montana made inappropriate comments about a 14-year-old student who was the victim of sexual intercourse without consent. A 47-year-old high school teacher had pleaded guilty to a sex offense with the 14 year old.
In Montana, a minor under the age of 16 cannot legally consent to sexual intercourse. The judge made comments to the effect that the minor shared some of the responsibility. The Montana Supreme Court rightly censured the judge for his comments. In California, minors under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual intercourse unless they are emancipated.
The person who bears total responsibility for the offense is the adult teacher. He absolutely knew his conduct was criminally and morally wrong. There is no excuse for his behavior.
There are important lessons for all family members to learn from these types of cases.
Men, women, and adolescents can easily become attracted to vulnerable minors if they socialize with them, spend enough time with them, and/or seek emotional and sexual comfort from them.
Keep a healthy distance from forming social relationships with minors.
Men, women, and adolescents can become attracted to minors. That attraction can lead into a sexual relationship. The more an adult socializes with the minor, the minor becomes another person to them that they can relate to, talk to, joke with, and become attracted to. The adult slowly starts treating the minor as another adult. Their psyche is not telling them this is a minor and to keep your hands off and come to your senses. The minor responds favorably to the adult/older adolescent’s attention. The minor wants to be kind, nice, and responsive to the adult. The minor likes the attention thinking they are something special. Remember at all times when dealing with a minor/younger adolescent that a judge, police officer, or a prosecutor is standing behind you watching what you are doing.
Teachers, coaches, youth ministers, clergy, Boy Scout/Girl Scout leaders, and tutors must be aware the more time they spend alone with a minor the greater the chance the relationship could expand into something sexual and very wrong. An adult can quickly lose sight of the fact they are dealing with a minor.
We read about men and women being prosecuted for sexual conduct with minors. In a number of cases it is a coach, youth minister, Boy Scout/Girl Scout leader, tutor, teacher, babysitter, big brother/big-sister or clergy. Headlines such as the following have appeared in local media: “Oxnard high school teacher accused of ‘sexting’ student”; “Butte County Deputy Arrested for ‘Sexting’ Minor”; “Teacher Accused of Exchanging ‘Sext’ Messages, Graphic Images with a 13-Year-Old Student”; “Long Beach Cop Allegedly Sexting with Minor He Met on the Job”; “Sexting by assistant football coach draws lawsuit”; “Santa Maria teacher accused of sexting student”; “Hummer Mom Makes First Court Appearance”–this 42-year-old mother was accused of having sex with boys who were barely teenagers when it started; “Parents ‘Shocked’ About Sexting Allegations”–a female high school soccer and lacrosse coach in Poway, CA, was accused of sending harmful matter to a minor and communicating with a minor with the intent to commit a sexual act.
Suggestions to avoid finding yourself being criminally prosecuted, losing your job, your profession, your marriage, and your good character:
1. Do not socialize with minors. If you are a teacher, coach, mentor, big-brother/sister, music teacher, therapist, youth minister, tutor and you use email to communicate with the youth you are teaching/coaching/mentoring do it in a general email to all the students. Do not start private email conversations with any student, team member, boy/girl scout, youth group participant, or other groups you may be an adult for. Always remember when around youth, communicating with them, there is standing behind you the judge, prosecutor and police officer.
2. Do not invite a student/minor to your house. Don’t socialize with your students. Some teachers invite their students to their homes as a reward for being a good student. You are not the student’s buddy–you are their teacher. If you want to have a party for your students, make sure their parents are invited. Do not have it at your house. Make sure there are other teachers or adults present. Never be alone with a student or team member where there is not another adult with full view of you and the minor.
3. Do not give a student or team member rides in your car unless they sit in the backseat with another student. Do not let them sit beside you. You don’t want some allegation being made you touched them in some inappropriate way while driving. Under no circumstances allow a student to sleep in your hotel/motel room. Once again, you are vulnerable to one of them asserting you touched them inappropriately in the night when you thought they were sleeping.
4. Do not horse-play or wrestle with a student or team member. All it takes is an allegation you put your hand on their private area, near their private area, or touched their chests and the next thing is you are being investigated for child abuse charges.
5. If you are around minors on a regular basis as a teacher, coach, mentor, youth minister, tutor, or Boy/Girl Scout leaders insist your school, recreational league, or church put on yearly seminars to educate and assist you in protecting yourselves from being accused of inappropriate behavior with minors.