Looking like a lurid "All Nude" sign, today’s Houston Chronicle’s headline screams, "Wash. court: Sex between teachers, 18-year-olds OK". In fact, the Washington Court of Appeals said no such thing. Rather, the court ruled that sex between consenting adults is not a legal matter, regardless of a student/teacher relationship. Not the same thing at all.
Here’s the real problem with the Washington case:
The state’s code of professional conduct for teachers still prohibits any sexual advance toward or contact with pupils, whatever their age, and teachers can be fired for it.
Matthew Hirschfelder, who hasn’t been able to work as a teacher for more than 2 years, denies that any sexual relationship ever took place, the statement of the now 20-something former student not withstanding. On the face of it, Hirschfelder’s claim seems dubious. Why would an adult woman make up such a story?
Yet, it does happen, as the Chronicle reported – also today – in regard to a criminal case in Montgomery County:
Eric Foster went to trial last month in Montgomery County’s 410th state District Court on three counts of indecency with a child and one count of sexual assault of a child. The jury cleared him of the charges.
The Chronicle has a great comments section for its articles and readers are rightly focused on the enormous injustice that Eric Foster has suffered in this case. His name and reputation have been destroyed. For all intents and purposes his career as an educator is over. The last year of his life has been a living hell. And over what? The accusation of a teenaged girl, an accusation that has been evaluated by a jury and found to be false.
Who, one astute commenter wonders, will make Eric Foster whole? That can never be done, although a civil lawsuit against the girl’s family might compensate him for some of his legal fees and his pain and suffering. Despite the jury’s findings, the shadow of doubt hangs over Foster and will do so for the rest of his life.
Why do we take students’ allegations more seriously than they deserve to be taken? Because real abuses do happen and many of our current crop of educators would never be allowed in the classroom if the U.S. had a proper education system run by the best the country has to offer.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in Houston where a seemingly endless series of teachers have been arrested on drug charges in the last few weeks.
Educators’ ethics aren’t where they should be, obviously. Want to clean up the education system a little by getting rid of bad teachers like these? The one of the keys fixes is to introduce competition into the education system (the others are to re-introduce discipline and morals back into schools – we’ll discuss another time).
An administrative assistant makes as much or more than a teacher – is it any surprise that we don’t get the right instructors in the classroom? Teachers have to put in 20 years, minimum to get their maximum retirement benefit, something that helps make up for the low pay. But is it then a surprise that teachers stay in their positions long after they are burned out from the stress?
To get the right teachers we need to pay them more – a lot more – up front. Only some current teachers deserve that kind of increase in compensation. So be it.