Monday, February 14, 2005

Yet Another Teacher Charged With Child Molestation: What Is To Be Done?

A few days ago, McMinnville, Tennessee, gym teacher Pamela Joan Rogers Turner was arrested (Digger's Realm has pictures here) and charged with 15 counts of sexual battery by an "authority figure" and 13 counts of statutory rape. If found guilty, she could be sentenced to a prison term of up to 100 years.

The alleged victim was one of her 13-year-old male students.

A number of these crimes have been profiled by the media lately.

As an actively serving classroom teacher, I can say that each and every time this sort of crime is perpetrated by a member of the Education Community, irreparable harm is done to one (or more) children, and the reputation of all who serve students in the Education Craft is tarnished.

Clearly, something needs to be done in order to protect children.

Some would say that the solution would be thorough background checks of perspective teachers as well as those that are already serving in the classroom. While we do not wish to disparage background checks, they would have been of little value in the cases of Pamela Rogers-Turner, Debra Lefave, or Mary Kay LeTourneau.

None of these individuals had any criminal records or arrests that would have turned-up in the background check.

To the best of my knowledge, teacher training courses currently include little or no material regarding the avoidance of inappropriate relationships with pupils and the need for educators to maintain "professional distance" between themselves and their students while continuing to foster a nurturing learning environment.

Part of the solution may be the incorporation of such training in credentialing programs, as well as those programs that many states require teachers to complete during their first years of service in the classroom. Veteran teachers could attend refresher training at their regular staff meetings or inservice.

That would be a start.

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