Student-teacher sex: Is it always a crime?

A Montana teacher will serve 30 days in jail for involuntary sex with a 14-year-old student, who later committed suicide. Stacey Dean Rambold, who was 49 when he started a sexual relationship with Cherice Morales. The troubled girl killed herself a few weeks before her 17th birthday.
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Judge G. Todd Baugh said the girl was older than her chronological age and “as much in control of the situation” as her teacher. In response to protests, Baugh apologized.

Rambold had a chance to get the charges dismissed, but failed to complete a sexual offender treatment program.

Thirty days was too long a sentence, argues Betsy Karasik, a writer and former lawyer, in the Washington Post. Sex between students and teachers shouldn’t be a crime, she believes.

“Teachers who engage in sex with students, no matter how consensual, should be removed from their jobs and barred from teaching unless they prove that they have completed rehabilitation,” Karasik concedes. But let’s not get “hysterical.”

When I was growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, the sexual boundaries between teachers and students were much fuzzier. Throughout high school, college and law school, I knew students who had sexual relations with teachers. To the best of my knowledge, these situations were all consensual in every honest meaning of the word, even if society would like to embrace the fantasy that a high school student can’t consent to sex. Although some feelings probably got bruised, no one I knew was horribly damaged and certainly no one died.

No harm, no foul? That’s hard to argue when Cherice Morales killed herself, but Karasik blames the criminal case against Rambold for his victim’s suicide.

If someone wants to argue that it’s OK for teachers to have sex with their underage students, I’d look for a 23-year-old teacher who falls for an 17-year-old student. This was a 49-year-old preying on a 14-year-old girl who was hurt so badly she killed herself. If she was mature, consenting and in control, she wouldn’t have killed herself. 

How low can we go? asksWesley J. Smith, who links to articles “normalizing” what used to be called pedophilia and is now “cross-generational sex.”

California plan: More $ for higher ed

California colleges and universities get more funding in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan, but it’s not all about the benjamins. Among other changes, the state’s community colleges would be funded based on end-of term enrollment, not who’s there in the third week.

Flush with revenues from the oil-and-gas boom, North Dakota is spending more on higher education. Enrollment is down at Montana community colleges as young people take “brown jobs” in the oil fields, but some colleges are offering free tuition or special job training to compete.

Go to college or take an energy job?

Some Montana teens are choosing high-paying jobs in the booming energy industry over college, reports the New York Times from the town of Sidney.  It’s a “risky” decision, opines the Times. What if the oil and gas drilling boom is shut down by environmental regulation?

. . .  with unemployment at more than 12 percent nationwide for young adults and college tuition soaring, students here on the snow-glazed plains of eastern Montana said they were ready to take their chances.

“I just figured, the oil field is here and I’d make the money while I could,” said Tegan Sivertson, 19, who monitors pipelines for a gas company, sometimes working 15-hour days. “I didn’t want to waste the money and go to school when I could make just as much.”

Less than a year after proms and homecoming games, teenagers like Mr. Sivertson now wake at 4 a.m. to make the three-hour trek to remote oil rigs. They fish busted machinery out of two-mile-deep hydraulic fracturing wells and repair safety devices that keep the wells from rupturing . . .

One  high school senior makes $24 an hour as a cashier in Williston, N.D., the epicenter of the boom. She plans to work for a few years, save her money and move to Denver.

In eastern Montana, counselors say “more and more students were interested in working for at least a year after graduation and getting technical training instead of a four-year degree.”

Last year, one-third of the graduating seniors at Sidney High School headed off to work instead of going to college or joining the military, a record percentage. Some found work making deliveries to oil rigs, doing construction and repairing machinery. Others decided to first seek training as welders or diesel mechanics, which pay more than entry-level jobs.

Meanwhile, enrollment at Dawson Community College in Glendive, about an hour from Sidney, has fallen to 225 students from 446 just a few years ago, as fewer local students pursue two-year degrees.

People are moving to the energy belt in search of jobs at good wages, but even more jobs are expected.

Shay Findlay found a job repairing drilling pumps the day after he was graduated from high school. At 19, he earns $40,000 a year and enjoys his work. His friends are home from college for Christmas break with “stories of dorm-room dramas and drunken scuffles with campus police officers,” reports the Times.  “They’re going to have to come back and look for work,” he said. “And there’s nothing but oil fields over here.”

Who’s taking the risk? Findlay’s party-hearty friends are very likely to drop out of college owing money. Honor-roll students with the ability and motivation to earn a degree — petroleum engineering pays very, very well — will benefit from going straight to university. But that’s not who’s earning a welding certificate or working as repairmen, drivers and cashiers.

The New York Times is worried about the risk to the “college-industrial complex,” writes Heather Mac Donald. “Too many high-school graduates are reflexively going to college as it is, without a clue what they are doing there or how to take advantage of higher education.” They aren’t studying the great ideas of Western civilization, she writes. Most will “double major in communications and binge drinking.”

On-time high school grad rate is 72%

Only 72 percent of students in the class of 2011 earned a diploma in four years, according to the U.S. Education Department.

Iowa had the highest graduation rate at 88 percent with Wisconsin and Vermont at 87 percent and Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas at 86 percent.

The District of Columbia’s four-year graduation rate was 59 percent, the lowest in the country, notes Dropout Nation. Only 60 percent of black, Latino, and Native American students graduated on time. In Nevada, the black on-time graduation rate was 43 percent, the worst in the nation. Montana and Texas are “the only states in which four out of every five black freshmen in their respective Classes of 20111 graduated on time.” Minnesota had the largest racial achievement gap with a 49 percent on-time graduation rate for blacks and 84 percent of whites

Nationwide, 79 percent of Asian-American students and 76 percent of non-Hispanic whites finished high school in four years.

If a student needs five years to earn a high school diploma — and really earns it — that’s OK by me. I worry that “portfolio review” and “credit recovery” scams will pump up graduation rates.

How strong are teachers’ unions?

Hawaii’s teachers’ union is the strongest in the nation, followed by Oregon, Montana and Pennsylvania, according to Fordham’s analysis. Arizona has the weakest teachers’ unions, followed by Florida and South Carolina.

More states plan to defy NCLB

Idaho, Montana and South Dakota plan to ignore No Child Left Behind’s proficiency targets, unless Congress acts to modify the law, reports Ed Week.  The three states have told Education Secretary Arne Duncan they’ll “stop the clock as the 2014 deadline approaches for bringing all students to proficiency in math and language arts” to limit the number of schools that face penalties for failure to make progress.

Kentucky has asked permission to use its own accountability system.

The Education Department has offered waivers only to states that agree to federally approved reforms. Roll-your-own waiver is not an option, said Justin Hamilton, the department spokesperson, on Tuesday.

 

Sex ed in Montana

Sex education in kindergarten? Some Helena, Montana parents are opposing a K-12 health curriculum are upset about a proposed sex education curriculum.

The proposed curriculum (pdf) calls for teaching words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, nipples and testicles, to kindergartners. First graders would learn to “understand human beings can love people of the same gender and people of another gender.” Fifth-graders would learn that sexual intercourse “includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal penetration,” reports CNN.

Forget Sex Ed, Teach Math and Science, writes Scott Gulbransen on Technorati Politics.

Parents have the responsibility to teach younger kids age-appropriate information about the birds and the bees. When Johnny can’t read why does he need to learn about anal sex?

Public education in the United States needs to focus its attention on teaching the kids the fundamentals they need to succeed in a changing world. They need to learn computer science, physics, biology, English and geography.

Leave parenting to the parents.

Gulbransen left out reading. Teach ‘em to read and they can read dirty books to find out about different methods of penetration.