Earlier this year in February, two Pittsburgh area high school teachers were arrested in connection with a sweeping investigation of sex abuse at the school. One teacher has been charged with one count of institutional sex abuse and corruption of minors due to allegations he had sex with a student late last year. Another teacher has been charged with furnishing alcohol to minors and corruption of minors. This teacher also faces allegations he had sex with a student.
A third teacher was charged with intimidating a witness. New witness intimidation charges were also filed against the other two teachers. The new charges were filed after the third teacher made statements during class identifying one of the alleged victims and blaming her for his absence from school due to questioning by law enforcement. According to police, the teacher pointed at the student and stated, “The reason I wasn’t here on Friday is because two men in suits from the District Attorney’s Office were asking me hundreds of questions.” After being asked why he was questioned, the teacher pointed to a student and said, “Because of her.” The teacher allegedly then called the student to the front of the class and asked whether she would be comfortable with the following week’s topic, “sexual assault.” In addition, detectives indicated that during questioning, the teacher shifted blame to the victim, stating that it “takes two to tango.”
The witness intimidation charges were filed because after the initial investigation involving the first two teachers, school officials instructed all school employees to cease conversations with staff or students about the investigation. In addition, the victims were not identified during the third teacher’s questioning by detectives. The implication is that the third teacher learned of the victims’ names in violation of the school officials’ orders. The witness intimidation charges may result in a conviction because naming a victim in front of others and blaming her for being questioned could certainly be seen as intentionally intimidating a witness from filing a report or otherwise coming forward. Witness intimidation in Pennsylvania is a felony in the third degree.
Teacher-Student Sex Abuse in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has one of the worst track records in the United States for reports of teachers sexually abusing students. Just over the last 2 to 3 years, there have been literally dozens of reports of sexual abuse of students by teachers; many teachers have been convicted of sexually abusing students. A few years ago, the Pennsylvania legislature amended its child sex abuse law to include the crime of institutional sex abuse in a school setting, making it a third degree felony a teacher at a public or private school to engage in sexual intercourse, deviate sexual intercourse or indecent contact with a student of the school.
Teachers who sexually abuse students assume that the student is on equal footing with the teacher. This is a serious, grave error of judgement. The reality is that teachers hold positions of authority over students. Therefore, that power is what makes sexual abuse in a school setting so problematic.
The position that “it takes two to tango” certainly applies to two consenting adults, on equal footing. It absolutely does not apply to teachers and students. It’s precisely that kind of thinking which perpetuates the problem.
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- http://lancasteronline.com (teacher-faces-hearing-on-charges-he-intimidated-sex-victim/article_b679b9ee-0a61-5de0-b2d8-dedc78c4ba32.html)
- http://www.post-gazette.com (2015/04/22/Plum-High-School-teacher-charged-with-intimidating-student/stories/201504220182)