A popular TV show among teenagers, “Pretty Little Liars,” is one of many that features a truly disgusting act — a teacher having sexual relations with one of his students. Now “Pretty Little Liars” is not the only show or movie to include these acts — the new CW hit “Riverdale” also highlights a relationship between a teacher and a student, and there are several movies such as “Notes on a Scandal” and “A Teacher” where this takes place as well. With the consistent prevalence in the world of television and movies, it comes as little surprise that in the real-world inappropriate teacher-student relationships have become increasingly more common.
According to the Texas Education Agency, the number of inappropriate relations between teachers and their pupils was 179 in 2014, the last time this information was recorded. This is in the state of Texas alone, not even taking into account the countless reports of misconduct in states such as Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio, among others. These children — and yes, they are children — are sometimes as young as 13 years old. The age 13 is not old enough to drive a car, to go to an R-rated movie and, in many cases, not even old enough to get a job. Children are being taken advantage of by the people they trusted with their education and their development, and the perpetrators are using that to play out a fantasy that is not only perverse but also illegal. It does not matter if the perpetrator is a 40-year-old man or a beautiful 26-year-old woman. If they are in an authority position and they are taking advantage of a child, it is not only an egregious abuse of power — it is statutory rape.
Many of these perpetrators claim to have love-based relationships with their victims. According to the Houston Chronicle, Alexandria Vera, a 24-year-old English teacher from Houston, was recently sentenced to 10 years for having a sexual relationship with her 13-year-old student. Her defense team made their case that she did not believe what she was doing was wrong, that she was in love with the student and that therefore their relationship was acceptable. The problem with this argument is that it brings into play the age-old question of “where do you draw the line?” If it is OK for an adult to have a relationship with a teenager, should it be OK for an adult to have a relationship with a child? Anyone under the age of 18 is still in the care of parents or guardians and is identified a child by the law. There is the caveat of parental permission for adult relationships and marriage once the child reaches the age of 16 or 17, but when it comes to teachers and students, it still crosses a line. Whether students are 12, 15 or 17, they are still underage, and if we don’t identify that clear line, it could open doors for molestation and statutory rape to become acceptable.
We need to draw the line. We need to recognize that just because the teacher isn’t a creepy old man doesn’t mean they aren’t a pedophile, and that as the future adults of the world, and possibly even future teachers, we can make a difference. Many of us will have children one day, so we should be concerned about teachers and administrators, both male and female, taking away a child’s innocence. Adults should not condone the perversion of a teacher’s role, and courts should try as hard as possible to ensure these predators get the punishment they deserve.