How do pedophiles find their way into the teaching profession?
Newspapers carry anecdotal evidence of it almost every day.
A former teacher in Riverside County, Calif., faces 16 counts pertaining to aggravated sexual assault and lewd acts on a child under the age of 14 after one of the alleged victim aired her accusations on YouTube.
Police in Philadelphia have charged a high-school math teacher with having sex with a 17-year-old student. The teacher is married and has three children.
A former teacher in Houston has been sentenced to a year in a county jail after admitting to having sex four times with a 15-year-old student.
But what do the statistics say?
It’s hard to find up-to-date federal statistics on sexual misconduct by teachers.
New York City’s Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation headed up 287 investigations in 2012 and substantiated 20 percent of the allegations.
In 2011-12, the Texas Education Agency investigated 156 allegations, which was a 70 percent increase over the 2007-08 school year.
But tarring an entire profession with such scattershot evidence is hardly fair.
The concern is not that there is something inherently wrong with the teaching profession. The concern is that people who have no business being around children are slipping through in spite of background checks and other safeguards.
If you are one of the people responsible for approving the hiring of new teachers for your city or county school system, how can you possibly know that someone with seemingly solid references and no criminal history could have sex with a student in the future?
Part of the problem is the tolerance for and even endorsement of this kind of behavior in some segments of society.
A cursory Google search will show web sites like the one promoting a radio disc jockey who posts photos of what he calls the “50 Hottest Teachers Who Slept with Students.”
In August 2013, former attorney Betsy Karasik stated her view that sex between teachers and students should not be against the law on the op-ed page of the Washington Post.
Karasik professes that teachers who have sex with students should be fired and thrown out of the profession. However, she also more or less tries to justify different degrees of sexual contact between educators and students, from flirting to full-blown intercourse, as rites of passage.
She wrote, “Many teenagers are, biologically speaking, sexually mature. Pretending that this kind of thing won’t happen if we simply punish it severely enough is delusional.”
That is correct as far as it goes, but it misses the point. The protection of minors from sexual predators, be they teachers, scout leaders, coaches, ministers, family members or other authority figures, is not essential because some youngsters are sexually mature.
It is essential because they are emotionally and intellectually immature and, therefore, vulnerable to manipulation by any adult who leaves his or her conscience and common sense at home when working around kids.