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Relationships With Students

Several years ago, the nation was shocked by the news of Mary Kay Letourneau. Ms. Letourneau was an elementary school teacher who was charged with having a sexual relationship with one of her students. Despite claiming that she and the student were "in love," Ms. Letourneau lost her job, her teaching credentials and served prison time for her actions. When this case was first publicized, it seemed to be an isolated incident. Today, however, the news across the country is replete with examples of a disturbing number of teachers who are making poor decisions involving the appropriate boundaries and relationships with students that undermine their fiduciary responsibilities as teachers and call into question their role as moral exemplars in the community.

In this unit, we will explore the concept of professionalism as applied to student-teacher relationships and examine appropriate student-teacher relationships as well as the fiduciary responsibility of teachers to their students. The law imposes a duty on children to attend school and on parents to relinquish their supervisory role over their children to teachers and administrators during school hours. Thus, no greater obligation is placed on school officials than to protect the children in their charge from dangers external and internal.

From the News

On this page there is a case video from Idaho, a middle school teacher is sentenced to twenty years in prison after engaging in a sexual relationship with a student.

Discussion Questions

  1. In the video, the judge identifies some of the items that Ms. Beach "cashed in" for lust. Identify other areas of Ms. Beach's life that were probably affected by her actions. Which do you believe would be the hardest for Ms. Beach to cope with during her prison sentence?
  2. What factors might have led to Ms. Beach's decision to enter into a sexual relationship with a student? How do you think she might have rationalized that this behavior was acceptable?
  3. Regardless of how Ms. Beach may have rationalized her behavior, she committed a crime that affected a student's life in monumental ways. Identify the potential ramifications, both short and long term, of her conduct on the student and his family.

Video Example