Re: Ask The Mineshaft: Predator Paranoia

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The 2 teachers at my HS who were up to no good were not too subtle about it. In the case of the one who liked boys, EVERYBODY knew. I mean everybody. It was an open joke. Nothing happened to him until my senior year.

The one who liked girls was pretty obviously creepy. Not so much with the extended, in-class backrubs and what not, but lots and lots of time spent alone with the favorite students. And he definitely worked to cultivate lots of friendships and a reputation as a cool cat with the young women there.

So, if they're really not being creepy at all, and especially if they're not favoring one gender over another, I think they're probably okay. Obviously, you can never be 100% sure about anyone -- one of my friends was raped by her black, punk rock, queer girlfriend, which is not a story you hear too often -- but going with the averages, it's probably not a big deal.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:02 AM
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And I understand that predators tend to identify vulnerable children with uninvolved parents, which would not describe her at all: we're involved, and her teachers know we are, and while she's a little awkward she's not socially isolated and she's very outspoken.

There you go. If someone is really a "predator" they will go after kids who don't have any other adults to turn to and tell about their problems.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:04 AM
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Odds seem low enough that maybe a bigger danger is overthinking.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:12 AM
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You said that if there were grooming behavior you would notice it. This is good, because grooming behavior is a big warning sign. So right now, it sounds like you are asking what the warning signs for future warning signs are. That says to me that you are a safe distance from anything bad. The only thing you need to do now is be on the look out for those (level one) warning signs.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:26 AM
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What about having open, frank discussions with kids about how it's not OK for adults to be touching on you (which can change in content as kids get older)? Try to prevent it as much as possible by relying on the kid's (hopefully) good judgement.


Posted by: Rance | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:31 AM
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I think too, if you've raised her to come to you with her problems and you're not overly judgmental in a way that would allow her to be guilted into not telling you, you've already effectively helped her in large part not to be a victim. Also, being outspoken and confident goes along way. No teacher is going to target a girl/boy if there is even a 1% chance (s)he'll turn down his advances because the stakes are too high. Importantly, I think teacher who isn't a predator I think will be cognizant of that possibility, and if anything, be understanding or even grateful if parents are watchful, because being on the radar in a non-hostile way protects him too. I would say the biggest red flag would be if he gets defensive or isn't open/transparent about how much time he spends with your kid/kids.

To reassure you from the other side, I grew up in a school where there were lots of male teachers who were warm, friendly, went out of their way to help students in and outside school, and even cultivate close relationships with individual students (including me), and none of them were predators or slept with their students, they were all just really genuinely nice guys.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:34 AM
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Talk to the kid. Normal looks like this, dnager looks like that, there's a grey area.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:36 AM
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I'd say more important than anything you can do it terms of teacher surveillance is having conversations like this with your daughter. Does she know what grooming behaviors are? Does she know she's more likely to be molested by the dad of the kids she babysits or her friend's older brother than by someone with a mask in a dark alley? Does she have a good understanding of bodily autonomy and consensual relationships? Does she know that there are a lot of misperceptions about sexual assault? (The national news lately gives plenty of chances to talk about the last and segue into the others from there.)

If those are normal conversations around your house, it makes it normal for her to then say something to her friends who don't get to have these conversations, who might not have adults looking out for them.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:39 AM
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Echoing 7, I'd say the following:

1 - leave the specific teachers entirely out of it.
2 - Frame it as knowing what to look for if marginalized kids are being targets.

Basically your daughter's safety isn't at risk, it's the other kids - in general - and your daughter is your only pathway to any real information, so I'd have a conversation with your daughter about who gets targeted, and what the grooming, etc red flags to look for, to help protect those kids.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:46 AM
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My kids went to Catholic school for a while. After the whole priest molestation thing broke the archdiocese required all volunteers or potential volunteers to take awareness training. At the time I thought it was rich that we, the parents, were the ones who had to take the class, but whateve.

The point is I did learn some things, one of which is never let children be alone with adults one on one. It is rarely necessary. Predators actively seek this out, and get defensive when challenged.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:53 AM
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I like 9.

I don't like fear, as a general proposition. It's a poison, maybe not fatal in small doses, but not without consequence. On the facts presented in the OP, there's no reason to think that anyone is in more danger in this school than in any situation anywhere. Obviously, there's no reason to be ignorant, or clueless about obvious behavior, but on the other, one doesn't want to get all Dick Cheney 1% Doctrine about stuff either.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:53 AM
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Question 1: Is it wrong to suspect people of being monsters just because they're doing good things that happen to be the same sort of good things that monsters are likely to do?

Answer 1: No. Acting on those suspicions would probably be a fairly huge mistake, but having them seems inevitably human. Parents watch for danger, it's kinda the job. Penn State and Horace Mann stories have added new things to your list of dangerous behavior, so now you're watching for them. They're most likely the wrong things -- witness the teenage boys murdering teenage girls that have been in the news in the past couple of days and bearing in mind that motor vehicles and suicide kill far more teenagers than sexual predators by a ratio of probably thousands, but worrying is what parents do.

Question 2: Also, how should I be effectively suspicious?

Answer 2: You shouldn't. If you're going to worry, prioritize. Drunk driving, number one. Drugs mixed with teenage boys, number two. Suicide/cutting, number three. Anorexia/bulimia/body image, number four. Bullies, getting into a good college, having healthy relationships, not getting her heart broken too badly or too often . . . you get the idea, I'm sure. Worrying that a random charming guy is a sexual predator who might target an extremely unlikely target is a waste of time when you have so many other things to worry about.

That said, listen to what you're told. What happened in the Penn State case especially (I don't know much about Horace Mann) is that adults dismissed the stories, minimized what they heard, tried hard not to believe it. Don't be one of those people. But unless you hear something that would actually indicate a problem (even if just at the level of poor boundaries -- ie, K's going over to Mr.Y's house after school or Mr. X was telling jokes about sex in class) -- realize that your worry is really just a way not to think about all those other far more realistic fears and let go of it and get back to worrying about drunk driving instead.

MeQuestion 1: Is it wrong to suspect people of being monsters just because they're doing good things that happen to be the same sort of good things that monsters are likely to do?

Answer 1: No. Acting on those suspicions would probably be a fairly huge mistake, but having them seems inevitably human. Parents watch for danger, it's kinda the job. Penn State and Horace Mann stories have added new things to your list of dangerous behavior, so now you're watching for them. They're most likely the wrong things -- witness the teenage boys murdering teenage girls that have been in the news in the past couple of days and bearing in mind that motor vehicles and suicide kill far more teenagers than sexual predators by a ratio of probably thousands, but worrying is what parents do.

Question 2: Also, how should I be effectively suspicious?

Answer 2: You shouldn't. If you're going to worry, prioritize. Drunk driving, number one. Drugs mixed with teenage boys, number two. Suicide/cutting, number three. Anorexia/bulimia/body image, number four. Bullies, getting into a good college, having healthy relationships, not getting her heart broken too badly or too often . . . you get the idea, I'm sure. Worrying that a random charming guy is a sexual predator who might target an extremely unlikely target is a waste of time when you have so many other things to worry about.

That said, listen to what you're told. What happened in the Penn State case especially (I don't know much about Horace Mann) is that adults dismissed the stories, minimized what they heard, tried hard not to believe it. Don't be one of those people. But unless you hear something that would actually indicate a problem (even if just at the level of poor boundaries -- ie, K's going over to Mr.Y's house after school or Mr. X was telling jokes about sex in class) -- realize that your worry is really just a way not to think about all those other far more realistic fears and let go of it and get back to worrying about drunk driving instead.

Me = mom of a teenage boy in a town where two teenage boys were shot execution-style and their bodies burned on a jogging path last spring. I left that off your list of things to worry about since you have a girl, but you can add it if you want.


Posted by: Sarah Wynde | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:56 AM
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10.2 -- I get this. But the real problem with the Catholic business is the magical nature of the perps. It's not that ordinary teachers don't or won't engage in abusive behavior, but that when they do, the disincentive to report (by victims, their families, others who know) is way way less.

Necessary and beneficial are not the same thing in this context. I mean, it's not really 'necessary' that kids (say 8-12) be allowed to play outside, head down to the creek and see what they can think up doing, etc without adult supervision.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:58 AM
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Hmm, sorry about the weird double post that makes it look I wrote a novel. I really only wrote half a novel, I swear.


Posted by: Sarah Wynde | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:58 AM
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I thought "grooming behavior" was what chimps did to other chimps, like picking lice out of their fur.

It sounds to me like you're being paranoid, full stop. Paranoia is understandable given the media and social climate. But remembering what happened in the preschool child abuse/satanic cult scandals should give us all pause -- this is an area that is both real and horrible and where paranoia is really really a problem. I don't think the fact that you're anxious is a warning sign of anything other than that you're anxious.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:00 AM
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And yeah, Sarah's right about the other things you can worry about.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:02 AM
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Is it wrong to suspect people of being monsters just because they're doing good things that happen to be the same sort of good things that monsters are likely to do?

Yes, actually. It's bad when young fathers take their kids to the park and are ostracized because they're a man in a park where there are kids and they're looking at kids; it's not going to be better if now being good at your job is a reason to be suspected of being a predator.

I echo 7, basically, but the most important thing to do is to ensure that your daughter believes that she could come to you with this without anyone dismissing it. The Sandusky case is horrible anyway you look at it, but what's additionally awful is the adults whom the children told who just didn't believe them.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:13 AM
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17.1 -- right on.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:23 AM
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To elaborate, I think being watchful but not paranoid is a good line. Make an effort to meet the teachers. Let them know your kid talks about them. (like, "Hi Mr. X, I'm so happy to meet you finally. I'm Mr. Z, xx's dad, and she speaks a lot about how much she's enjoying your class.") If the teacher is a great teacher, he'll be happy. If he's not, he'll know parents are paying attention. If you can at all, or if other people can, have parents volunteer to help with outside activities or clubs, even if it's minimal. Great teachers are usually overworked and appreciate all the support they can get. This also creates an environment where it would be hard for a predator to prey on anyone, not just your own child. Also, make sure your daughter knows that some secrets shouldn't be kept, because as a teen that's a hard thing to overcome, even if she knows a behavior is wrong.

On specific behaviors...I think this is hard. I spent a lot of one on one time with my HS debate coach in HS and during college summers. He taught me to drive stick shift, took me out to lunch, and did lots of things that could raise eyebrows, but didn't need to. He was just a guy who loved to help people and got active enjoyment out of it, and took it up as his second job. He saw me as needing a father-type figure on occasion, just like he saw other students in very different situations as needing different things. For example, he worked very hard for a long time to pull strings in congress to help get a foreign student the visa help he needed. Maybe a key difference is that while he was happy to spend one-on-one time with me or other students, he was more than happy for his wife or a parent or someone else to participate as well.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:36 AM
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It's all too risky. Burn down the school.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:37 AM
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19: Yeah, this is all very difficult not to overreact about. From when Buck was twelve till when he went away to college, he was an altar boy and did odd jobs around the rectory for the local monsignor: they spent a lot of time together, and while he was getting paid for actually working (mowing lawns, raking leaves, cleaning the church), the job was clearly sort of the monsignor adopting and supporting a local kid whose family was broke and who needed some external support. And describing the situation makes it sound exactly like the lead-in to how the monsignor molested him (which, to be clear, nothing of the sort ever happened).

While being aware about molestation is absolutely a good thing to have happened, there's probably no way for a Catholic priest to have a relationship like that with a kid these days, which is a terrible shame because it was probably life-changing in a good way for Buck.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:03 AM
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11, 17: I do mostly sympathize with the position you're taking -- paranoia is bad, particularly when it injures the people who are the innocent targets of the paranoia. But this sort of thing is really different, odds-wise, from satanic ritual abuse of preschoolers (literally never happens) or strange men abducting small children in parks (has happened, but in the sense that lightning strikes happen -- not a serious risk at all).

Teachers and other authority figures molesting teenagers happens all the time: I've got two stories from my high school (and could easily have missed more), Nat mentioned a couple, Alameida has talked about what happened to her, I'd bet we could come up with more stories from the commentariat without any trouble. It's a problem with odds much more like a teenage reckless/drunk driving accident than it is like the cartoonish psycho child-abductors people who get hostile at men in playgrounds are worrying about.

That doesn't mean there's any excuse for letting your paranoia impinge on perfectly innocent teachers, but the fact of the worry is practically justified in a way that shouldn't be lumped in with the silly child-molestation hysteria.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:24 AM
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I would guess that if she's chirpily telling stories about their latest goofy antics, she's not being abused by them. Maybe I'm wrong about that, I genuinely dunno.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:27 AM
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23: Oh, I think PPaul's kid sounds safe, for all the reasons everyone else has said. But just playing the odds, I'd guess anecdotally that at least a quarter of high schools have a teacher who has messed with the students (and I think that's a conservative guess), and if there is such a teacher in the relevant school, I think charming teacher with warm relationships with the students is probably the right place to pay attention to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:37 AM
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Bear in mind, even if a quarter of high schools have a predatory teacher, there are only so many hours in the day and there are probably a lot cuter, more vulnerable children then your own.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:48 AM
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"Cuter", in that sentence, really clangs.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:50 AM
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It's bad when young fathers take their kids to the park and are ostracized because they're a man in a park where there are kids and they're looking at kids.

Yeah, this sucks.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:50 AM
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26: I disagree! I think the whole sentence is deliberately unpleasant (in the great Unfogged tradition of cruel half-truth).


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:53 AM
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The question Cala was responding to was "Is it wrong to suspect people of being monsters just because they're doing good things that happen to be the same sort of good things that monsters are likely to do?"

You can be aware that sexual abuse by schoolteachers of teenagers is not extraordinarily uncommon, without the answer to that question being "yes."

The only information posed in the OP was that there were a bunch of teachers who were doing their jobs, well. No additional reason to suspect anything other than free-floating paranoia. If there were warning signs or a concrete reason for suspicion, things might be different. I agree with everyone else about common-sense advice about listening to your kid, being aware of the problem, and not ignoring danger signs, but I do think the original poster needs to chillax, and that this is a problem (while real) that can also lend itself to hysterical and problematic overreaction.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:53 AM
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Ah, sorry if that was a bit too far. I was going for a "you don't have to outrun the bear" joke and trying to insult the Mineshaft's children. It's possible I was a little too offensive.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:54 AM
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Peep gets me.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:54 AM
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In Florida, lightning strikes happen 3,500 times a day. Obviously, it doesn't hit *people* 3500 times a day. But it does hit quite a few of them -- worldwide, about 1000 people a year are struck by lightning. I'm going to guess that's substantially more than satanic abuse of preschoolers and strange-men-in-park-abductions.

I mention this mostly because most people don't take lightning seriously enough. It kills more people than snowstorms, hurricanes, and tornadoes every year. As a parent in Florida, stupid coaches who want kids to keep playing after the thunder starts ought to get a rank in the danger list, really.


Posted by: Sarah Wynde | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 11:58 AM
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No hard feelings about it -- it just hit a note of "who'd believe that kid got molested, considering what they look like," that sounded like something I wouldn't have wanted to have heard if I'd had any kind of personal trauma around the issue. But you clearly didn't mean it that way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:00 PM
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I agree with 29.

It's certainly important to be aware that there are adults who will use their positions in order to sexually prey on minors. Denial of that unfortunate fact doesn't help anyone. See the Catholic Church for exhibit A.

But the way the poster put it was problematic. "Predators often pass themselves off as nice, helpful people. Does this mean that if I see someone being nice and helpful I should suspect them of being a predator?" That way lies madness.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:01 PM
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Yes, this is an ATM with a pretty obvious answer, actually: don't waste your time on paranoically scrutinizing every potentially dangerous adult, as this is unhealthy and will among other things potentially drive you around the bend. The key, as others have pointed out, is to make sure the children know the lines of appropriate behaviour and feel they can talk to you, and other adults in their lives, when they see something inappropriate. This is the best means of guarding against sexual impropriety or predation, and is precisely what Sandusky's victims -- growing up in a culture that pretended molestation couldn't happen to good and normal people, where it acknowledged its existence at all -- did not have.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:04 PM
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All the stuff in the other thread about how men really are amazed how often women (and young women in particular) face street harassment also seems pertinent. I still vividly remember when some classmates and I were waiting at a bus stop and realized that the guy in the car stopped nearby was watching us and masturbating, and I was so grossed out and alarmed by it I was unwilling to tell my parents what had happened, though I think one of the other girls told hers. If we're talking odds, it's pretty important to make sure PPaul is open to that sort of awareness too.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:04 PM
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Thorn's 36 is very good.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:11 PM
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It's bad when young fathers take their kids to the park and are ostracized because they're a man in a park where there are kids and they're looking at kids

I don't think that this attitude has a lot of hold around here.... but I will be finding out in a couple of months, and will report back (woo, paid paternity leave!). Of course, park population might be kind of low in January.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:20 PM
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I think it's spotty neighborhood by neighborhood. Buck never had any trouble in Inwood, and there were plenty of fathers in the playground crowd. But as a cheap (for NY), family-oriented neighborhood, we've got a concentration of WAH fathers and other men on odd schedules that allow for more child-care. Places with fewer men around with their kids, it's probably much worse.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:24 PM
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Nobody has ever chased me out of a playground for being a creepy predator (yet! there's still time!), but there's definitely a kind of mom-solidarity (or nanny-solidarity, depending on the playground) thing that goes on and that might be rooted in the predator thing, or might just be general mommy-bonding.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:30 PM
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"Predators often pass themselves off as nice, helpful people. Does this mean that if I see someone being nice and helpful I should suspect them of being a predator?" That way lies madness the ire of Bayesians.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:30 PM
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27: I totally disagree, at least at a personal level. I'm generally pretty antisocial -- except when I'm not -- and I'm always thrilled that the moms at the playground appear to think that I'm very likely to be some sort of monster. That I've acquired a serious limp lately seems to have cemented my status as a pariah. Or perhaps it's the pox.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:33 PM
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The OP doesn't seem to be describing anything worrisome. In general the two big things I would watch for is 1. Attempts at time alone 2. when talking about that teacher starts sounding like they're talking about one of their other friends rather than a teacher.

I wonder a bit about one of my wife's co-workers. She definitely seems too keen on her students seeing her as one of their friends and my kids have seen her hanging out at the skating rink when they've gone there. And to elaborate this is a skating rink that's definitely a destination for jr. high and younger kids. Like, there's skating, laser tag, bouncy rooms, etc. Kind of the next step past Chucky Cheese and IMO the last place on earth a normal divorced childless woman in her 30's would want to hang out. So nothing concrete but she'd be one of my top candidates for "most likely to bang a 9th grader".


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:38 PM
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I never had any trouble with moms on the playground, but I'm only there on the weekends. Maybe it's different on Tuesday at 10:00 am.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:38 PM
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38, 39: Out here in the unenlightenned suburbs, I got used to the moms treating me as as a suspect when I had a kid on the playground outside of the "dad hours." There seemd to be a rule that dads take their kids to the playground on Saturdays and early on Sunday, but never on Sunday afternoons because there's football on TV. And weekdays? fuggedaboutit.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:39 PM
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That way lies madness the ire of Bayesians.

If .5% of all teachers were molesters, and if all schools had 60 teachers, then you'd get roughly the 25%-of-schools-have-at-least-one figure LB was throwing around. But high schools are often much bigger, and elementary schools smaller; my old high school now has 256 "faculty" for 1850 kids, though that must be counting more than just front-line teachers since that would mean a student:teacher ratio of less than half the target 16:1, and my old elementary seems to have 40 teachers+staff for 440 kids. Still, fine, let's go with .5%, though this implies that almost 2/3 of big high schools like mine have at least one molester. And suppose 10% of non-molesting teachers are really warm and friendly and helpful, while 100% of molesters are WFH. That would imply that a bit fewer than 5% of WFH teachers are molesters; you'd get 19 false positives for every correct suspicion.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:44 PM
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I'm totally with Sarah on this, including the repetitive part. IMX if you actually pay attention to kids any problems show up early.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:47 PM
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Is it wrong to suspect people of being monsters just because they're doing good things that happen to be the same sort of good things that monsters are likely to do?

yes, I believe this is wrong. It's toxic to social solidarity and to social health in general for people to consistently believe the worst of each other, let alone apply heightened suspicions because people are particularly kind or generous.

With that said, I don't see any reason you can't give your daughters a general warning about predators and age-inappropriate romance that they could apply to anyone in their lives. That would not require singling out these teachers in general.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:48 PM
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So nothing concrete but she'd be one of my top candidates for "most likely to bang a 9th grader".

I know this gets said a fair amount, but I would have been very grateful for such a person when I was a 9th grader.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:50 PM
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Me too, in theory. In practice, not so much.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 12:59 PM
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Incidentally, I find the 25% of high schools have a teacher who has molested a student number completely, insanely, bafflingly high.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:00 PM
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Are there any actual studies on how common this is?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:01 PM
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My high school had a lesbian english teacher who slept with her female students and in fact one senior moved in with her before she graduated HS. It was sort of still the 70s though (well, technically the early 80s, but culturally still the 70s).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:03 PM
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I had a roommate who married his former high school teacher. He said they didn't date before he graduated, but I didn't specifically ask if there was any non-dating, quick sex before he graduated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:05 PM
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Hmm, it can't be too uncommon. My high school had a small scandal when one of the teachers unsuccessfully tried to hit on a student, and the student ratted him out. I remember being mildly pissed at the student because I had liked the charming, helpful teacher. Stupid, stupid Eggplant.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:05 PM
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I've been googling. So far I've found this, which claims somewhere between 3% and 10% of students have been molested by a teacher, and this, which claims overall rates of child sexual abuse of around 15% in this country, where 60% of those are by a non-stranger non-family member. But nothing estimating the number of teachers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:08 PM
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I don't find 1/4 of high schools that surprising. High schools are pretty big. 25% of 200-teacher schools would have molesters in them even if the individual likelihood of any given teacher being one was only about .2%, or one in 500. Is "one in 500" so hard to believe?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:15 PM
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51: Really? I'm just guessing by how easy it is to get people to pony up anecdotes. Neither of the stories I know broke as scandals -- I know one of them because I was friends with the girl, and the other is admittedly third hand gossip.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:15 PM
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And of course there's a definitional problem with 'child sexual abuse' -- some student-teacher things aren't even going to be statutory rape.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:18 PM
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She definitely seems too keen on her students seeing her as one of their friends

My parents taught me to be suspicious of that sort of person: "cult of personality" teachers, like you see in all the Education As Triumph movies (Dead Poets Society, I'm looking at you).

I'm not saying that this is a tactic I'd recommend.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:21 PM
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58: I worry about estimating frequency from anecdotes.

59: agreed, and I think there was a distinct change in mores about high school teachers dating over-age-of-consent students (it was always tacky, but not quite as cataclysmic ally frowned-upon) at some point in the not-too-distant past.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:23 PM
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60: That was sort of the Horace Mann model, right? You're so special! I think of you as a peer! Come over! In fact, I consider you an adult basically, so can mix you a drink?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:25 PM
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61.2 I remember the thing with the lesbian teacher and her 16-18 year old lover being considered exactly that way -- gossip-worthy but not any kind of giant criminal thing.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:26 PM
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(See also that Adam Scott episode of Veronica Mars. essear understands me.)


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:26 PM
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60: it's never too early to teach your kids to be suspicious of a cult of personality. Comes in handy in later life too.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:27 PM
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I shall now tell you a tale that, looking back upon it, is less romantic and more smarmy than it seemed at the time.

At the boarding school I attended there were recent college graduates that had been hired as what were called "teaching fellows". It was a one year tenure, right out of college. Most went on to other pursuits, such as graduate school, but it was not unknown for one to remain and become full time faculty.

In the spring of my senior year I had apparently caught the eye of one of these young things, an instructor in classics. She was certainly cute enough, but the isolation had played upon her yearnings. Her apartment was attached to one of the girls dorms, where she was a house mother.

Our romance became physical after a time, and we romped in cupid's grove with great agility, as it were.

Being of the age of consent, I can't quite say I was taken advantage of, but I most certainly was not the aggressor.

Time has not dimmed the memory of those blissful afternoons, but recent events make we wonder if I shouldn't have notified the authorities.


Posted by: James Madison | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:35 PM
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Frankly, it seems to me that people can perfectly well be ready for sex somewhere around 16-17, even with people somewhat older than they are. That obviously doesn't mean that exploitation can't occur or that the emotional fallout from romance can't be too much to handle, but that can be true at later ages too.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:39 PM
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but recent events make we wonder if I shouldn't have notified the authorities.

Are you on crack? She was 21-24, you were a senior--so, what, 17?--they were "blissful afternoons," and you think you should have called the authorities? I think you're trolling us, Mr. Madison.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:40 PM
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To clarify: she ought not have done that. But, given that she did, and you enjoyed it and (apparently) consented in the moral if not legal sense, you certainly ought not have ruined her life over it.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:43 PM
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43: Ex recto, I wouldn't personally worry about this unless she seems to single out certain kids, but maybe that's just sexism on my part - "male offenders are serial predators, female offenders are lonely spinsters who fall for their students."

59: True, but based on the odds, it seems a safe assumption in general.

66
Time has not dimmed the memory of those blissful afternoons, but recent events make we wonder if I shouldn't have notified the authorities.

67 seconded. It could have been bad, and the second-to-last paragraph does sound like waffling, but I wouldn't worry just about the age difference or student-to-teaching-fellow relationship.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:43 PM
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What Mr. Madison needs to address is what he means by "recent events." Did she recently kill and eat a student paramour?


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:46 PM
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That was a fancy-ass boarding school President Madison attended.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:47 PM
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69: spring of senior year; could easily have been 18.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:48 PM
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59: True, but based on the odds, it seems a safe assumption in general.

Huh? Depending on the state the odds are less than 50%.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:49 PM
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Indeed, he explicitly describes himself as "[b]eing of the age of consent."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:49 PM
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...which, given different state laws, doesn't necessarily mean he was 18 but combined with "spring of senior year" strongly implies it.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:50 PM
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68 gets it right. Not everything has to be traumatic.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 1:57 PM
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And suppose 10% of non-molesting teachers are really warm and friendly and helpful, while 100% of molesters are WFH. That would imply that a bit fewer than 5% of WFH teachers are molesters; you'd get 19 false positives for every correct suspicion.

I agree with the consensus here that PPaul shouldn't be worried, but I will point out that the percentage of non-molesting adults (including, but not limited to teachers) who are WFH seems to be going down with time, such that certain subgroups of adults (scoutmasters, wrestling coaches, parish priests) may be getting into territory where the molesting WFH's are nearly as numerous as the non-molesting ones (i.e. more like a 1:4 ratio of true positives to false positives rather than a 1:19 ratio). With those odds, the precautionary principle starts to seem reasonable. Sad, but not unreasonable.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 2:02 PM
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What's WFH?


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 2:08 PM
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Oh, I just figured it out. Carry on.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 2:09 PM
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Basically, J-Mad's situation seems to me more like a relationship between a college undergrad and a TA or junior faculty than a typical high school teacher-student relationship. Still at least potentially problematic, but in different ways.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 2:10 PM
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the percentage of non-molesting adults (including, but not limited to teachers) who are WFH seems to be going down with time

It is?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 2:10 PM
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I'm just guessing by how easy it is to get people to pony up anecdotes.

I went to a small school in a conservative Christian community, and I know of at least three teachers who had sex with students for sure*, and another two who were widely suspected. And yet another (male) who made a pass at me post graduation. Extrapolating from personal experience, I find it entirely plausible that one in four graduates has attended a school with such a teacher.

In one case, the teacher was caught in flagrante with a ninth grade girl by his wife, who was also a teacher.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 2:13 PM
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Echo 82 here. Where the heck did those numbers come from? Aren't men dealing with kids nowadays more likely to be caring and sharing types than the stolid and distant authority figure?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 2:30 PM
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Aren't men dealing with kids nowadays more likely to be caring and sharing types than the stolid and distant authority figure?

I guess the idea is that they're also more likely to be child molesters?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 2:32 PM
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I'm not sure what decline of WFH is being referred to in 78, but I wonder if there's a feedback effect from exactly this kind of paranoia - being WFH makes people worry about you, so you avoid being WFH to avoid suspicion.

(also, the acronym is hurting my head, since it's "Working From Home" in my world).


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 2:36 PM
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You have allayed my nascent fears, one and all. I thank thee. I shall return the memories to the fond reverie they previously enjoyed.


Posted by: James Madison | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 2:48 PM
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I'm with the Sarah Wynde/Cala/Biohazard/etc camp here. Asked my girls earlier, and they thought Paul should stop being paranoid. There are clearly more things to worry about. I'm not saying it doesn't happen - we've just had a high-profile case with a maths teacher and a15 year old going off to France - but it seems to be more teachers who convince themselves they're in love rather than serial predators. And all these "i knew someone" stories are from 20+ years ago - I don't think the numbers are necessarily the same now.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 3:03 PM
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Extrapolating from personal experience, I find it entirely plausible that one in four graduates has attended a school with such a teacher.

<BALB>Sure, but this would be much less surprising than "one in four schools," because bigger schools enroll a larger share of students while simultaneously being more likely to have molesters in them. If, say, there are ten schools which have 50 teachers/staff & 400 kids for every one school with 250 teachers/staff & 2000 kids (very rough simplification of the numbers in my home town), about 22% of the small schools and about 71% of the large schools will have molesters in them, but that means about 110 small-school students and 1430 large-school students will have been in schools with molesters for every 2500 total students--over 60% of the total number of students, way above the ~26% per-school chance in this model.</BALB>


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 3:23 PM
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(Those %s are based on the same .5% likelihood of any given teacher being a molester, as in comment 46, which is based on absolutely nothing whatsoever. The point was just the per-school vs per-student difference.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 3:29 PM
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gets it right. Not everything has to be traumatic.

Age of consent laws are not in place because all adult-minor sexual relationships are necessarily abusive or traumatic. The problem is that some of them are, that this is more likely to be the case in such relationships than others, and we believe that children deserve special protection against fucked up relationship choices. A young teacher who has a relationship with a high school student, even one which is a positive one with two people having fun, is quite a bit more likely to have a 'bad' relationship with another high school student in the future. Still not saying that they should be reported, but that's because I think that with the sexual offender registry laws we punish relatively low level offenses too harshly.

That said, when I was teaching straight out of college I had a pretty crappy understanding of boundaries - off color jokes and mild drunken flirting at parties. The latter led to being propositioned by one of the students. The other teachers who had an idea of what had happened were mostly amused and I was easily the most disturbed by it.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 3:36 PM
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I had a HS teacher who I think had a crush on me. It culminated in him giving me a red rose and the class dictionary at the end of the year. He had wrapped it up in lavender tissue paper and made me unwrap it in front of the entire class. He also announced to the class that I was "his favorite student, ever." During the year he commented on my clothes, sometimes suggesting that I wear certain things more often. (I would take note and then make sure never to wear them to English class again). He also would occasionally have me read the sex scenes in our books out loud to the class. This was mixed in with more general teacher's pet/blatant favoritism which was non-sexual. It was a bit of a joke for the whole class, and while I was embarrassed I never felt threatened or harassed, even while at the time I recognized his behavior probably crossed a line. I also felt no desire to tell an adult, since it was his final year before retirement and he never took it to another level, like trying to spend time outside of class with me or cultivate a personal relationship with me in any way. I also didn't hear of any other students who he treated this way. I'm also still not quite sure of how much of it was performative weirdness vs. an actual crush, especially since it was almost entirely done with an audience. He was a teacher who definitely cultivated an aura of strangeness, and since he was a hard grader, he did have a cult of ambitious students trying to suck up to him. At the time, the biggest PITA for me was the resentment this group felt at the attention/praise he gave me.


Posted by: Britta | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 4:26 PM
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When I was in high school, my advisor's husband got in trouble for having relationships with two different girls. They were both the cool English teachers.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 4:37 PM
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The girls were both the cool English teachers?

You had an advisor in high school?!?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 4:46 PM
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I've got a brother?!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 4:52 PM
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81 Basically, J-Mad's situation seems to me more like a relationship between a college undergrad and a TA or junior faculty than a typical high school teacher-student relationship.

College undergrads all look increasingly similar to high school students to me now. Makes the idea of a junior faculty / college student relationship seem skeevier than it would have when I was younger.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 5:05 PM
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91-92: I do think that this is one area where it's a mistake to think you can just switch the genders of the student/teacher and everything stays the same, morally speaking. All that stuff mentioned in the other thread, or linked to there, about harassment of young women--that's all in the background. And more: all the standard feminism 101 stuff about a culture of pervasive sexual objectification. Which means that male teachers and other authority figures have an extra reason to make sure their relationships with young women and girls stay firmly non-sexual: in order to give them a clear message that they are valued and respected for reasons that have nothing to do with sexual desire. But this reason simply doesn't apply to female teachers interacting with male students; there just isn't that same strong current of objectification that needs to be fought against, that there needs to be a safe harbor from.

There are other reasons to protect young people from abusive relationships with authority figures, or older folks more generally, and these other reasons do mostly apply to female teacher / male student situations. But to handle those issues, it's probably enough to simply give the student in question the legal weapons to destroy the teacher's career if they choose to, if they feel they've been wronged--but not insist that any such relationship is by its very nature a reason to destroy said career/life.

The anti-objectification/safe-space argument, by contrast, gives reasons for whistle-blowing (against a male teacher) that apply not only to a female student who feels taken advantage of, but by anyone, because it gets at not only why it's likely to be worse for the student in question, but also why it can be damaging even for other students who are merely aware of it happening: even if you're not the one hit on, it's easy to see how it could reinforce quite strongly that same "you exist for men's desire" message.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 5:05 PM
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x. trapnel speaks very sensibly here.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 5:08 PM
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(tl;dr: it would have been totally okay for a female teacher to seduce a high-school-aged Trapnel, because I'm a feminist. Laydeez.)


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 5:08 PM
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94: We had advisors in high school in the Fifties. They were often eaten by packs of velociraptors.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 5:18 PM
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College undergrads all look increasingly similar to high school students to me now. Makes the idea of a junior faculty / college student relationship seem skeevier than it would have when I was younger.

Probably a good thing, I would think.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 5:33 PM
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19.1 is particularly good because it rewards actually-virtuous teachers and protects less-fortunate students. Of course, it bears the other mark of good advice, which is that it requires actual work.

Might not be more tiring than worrying, though.

I think female teachers having affairs with male students probably reinforces the damaging belief that men can only have emotional relationships if they're sexual, which reinforces the assumption that women must serve men's desires. I'll be agreeing with our Emerson pretty soon.

The Mary Kay Letourneau story weirds me out still.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 5:39 PM
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Apparently there was a Veronica Mars episode with Matt Czuchry. (Yes, that's what I'm focusing on in this thread.) I can't remember which one. I think they've given him sort of little to do on The Good Wife but he's so hoch-goyishly pretty!


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 5:43 PM
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103: Maybe you don't remember it because it was season 3. He shows up claiming to be Logan's long-lost half-brother and turns out to be a reporter snooping for Echolls family gossip.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 5:51 PM
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104: So here's where I come out as a Gilmore Girls fan, and that's how I know that dude. He's certainly well-favored. OTOH, he took a role where he played Tucker Max, so: ew.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 6:28 PM
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I just misread the title of this thread as "predator panda". 1. It was a really long day and 2. dude, dang.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 6:29 PM
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OTOH, he took a role where he played Tucker Max, so: ew.

Wait, what? Someone made a movie about Tucker Max?


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 6:30 PM
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107: Someone made his book about himself into a movie.

Actually it would probably be pretty entertaining. Max sounds like just the kind of truly horrible real-life human being that makes for decent comic-antihero fodder.


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 6:37 PM
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(Although apparently it got completely panned, so maybe not.)


Posted by: Lord Castock | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 6:40 PM
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I went down sort of a minor wiki-hole the other day and learned these things, yes. The movie starred Matt Czuchry and did very badly, and Tucker Max is now in therapy trying to be a better person. He went to a high school in my town and then the U of C for undergrad. I think I've read a few pages of one of his books. Here is the appropriate place to bury the fact that I, too, like The Gilmore Girls. So anyway, Tucker Max.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 6:41 PM
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Somebody pointed him out to me at some function. This was before he was famous. It was something like, "There's the guy who sent that email."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 6:46 PM
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I'm also a huge Gilmore Girls fan. Or I was until season 3. Ugh. I never even saw the end.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 6:52 PM
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He tried to self-produce and indie-distribute a film, got some investors, and put his own money into it. Of course, it lost a ton of money, including his own. Lesson: Don't be an egotistical moron, and stick with the pros.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 6:52 PM
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Don't be an egotistical moron

Not familiar with his oeuvre, eh?


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 6:57 PM
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Is there anything better than the fact that essear is, like, some sort of brilliant theoretical physicist and also possessed of perfect recall of every episode of Veronica Mars? No, there is not.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:23 PM
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Tucker Max was on an episode of Veronica Mars? Sorry, I've just been skimming the thread.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:25 PM
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So here's where I come out as a Gilmore Girls fan, and that's how I know that dude.

Yeah, so on Veronica Mars it was like "Logan's secret half-brother is... Logan?"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:25 PM
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115: Aw, shucks.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:26 PM
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Also, I don't understand faculty of approximately my age or older who perv on their students. And I don't mean this in an I don't even own a tv sort of way. They're just so young. I mean, I like talking to my students. They're smart and interesting and often have weird ways of looking at the world. But they're closer in age to my children than they are to me. Even given that, I will, I admit, very occasionally see an undergrad and think "oh, wow, she's very beautiful." But the thought of pursuing such a person is almost comical. I suppose this could just be because I'm pretty old, getting fat, and, of late, have begun to walk with a very pronounced limp. I'm a monocle and top hat short of utterly ridiculous.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:29 PM
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115 is accurate.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:30 PM
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118: I'm on a couple of committees with physicists this year. And I gotta say, I dig your people, man. They're very smart and super weird and seem to think that a liberal arts education is genuinely meaningful. I should ask them if they know anything about Veronica Mars.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:32 PM
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There's no perving going on, but I'm kind of wondering what, if anything, to do about the senior colleague whose students keep complaining to me about said colleague's terrible advising style and the borderline-nonsensical projects they're asked to complete and the semi-hostile responses they get when they fail to intuit the right thing they were supposed to do based on the incredibly vague and kind of stupid suggestions they're given.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:33 PM
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119: get the monocle and tophat. Throw in a recumbent bike and UCD would be but a few SAT points away from becoming Caltech-north. I remember a student who always wore welding goggles, a single rollerblade, and a dog collar...

One halloween he carried a huge sheet metal scythe and wore a reaper robe.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:34 PM
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122: are you tenured? No, you are not -- then it's somebody else's problem, ideally a trusted senior colleague who cares about the graduate students. (We are talking about the graduate students, right?). Put another way, don't blow it off. But man, there's no better way to become a pariah than to set yourself up as a critic of your colleagues' mentoring styles.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:36 PM
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119: Now I know what to get you for your birthday.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:36 PM
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121: My two favorite physicists at your institution are a Canadian guy who hardly speaks at all and a dude from Utah who will talk your ear off about everything. I haven't had enough chances to see them interact with each other but I imagine them having extremely one-sided conversations every day.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:38 PM
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That was sort of the Horace Mann model, right? You're so special! I think of you as a peer! Come over! In fact, I consider you an adult basically, so can mix you a drink?

I recently attempted to read Disgrace and I just couldn't get past the part where the main character attempts more or less exactly this move, less than 20 pages in.

I'm with the Sarah Wynde/Cala/Biohazard/etc camp here.

I understood Cala to be disagreeing with Wynde?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:47 PM
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The guy I'm talking about is an LHC dude, I think. He doesn't seem to be from Utah. Maybe he's Canadian? I don't think so.

Anyway, I didn't mean to sound prescriptive above. You should do what you want to do. I've just seen a bunch of cases where the cool new kid becomes a savior for the graduate students -- often for very good reasons -- and then gets totally burned.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:49 PM
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127.1: n.b. the main character in that book is a giant, giant asshole.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:59 PM
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the main character in that book is a giant, giant asshole.

That certainly seemed to be the way things were shaping up, but that didn't make it any easier to read.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 7:59 PM
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128.last: 124 sounds like good advice. I sympathize with the grad students, but I can't afford to spend many afternoons like I spent this one, trying to figure out some kind of tractable suggestions for how they might make progress on the vague assignments they were given. I can't really imagine that talking to their advisor or any other senior person in the department could have any impact, though.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 8:00 PM
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I understood Cala to be disagreeing with Wynde?

No.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 8:02 PM
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130: no.

I enjoyed it when I read it, which seems implausible in retrospect because I usually really hate novels where the main character is a thinly digsuised version of what the author believes to be his id that subsequently gets what is coming to id.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 8:02 PM
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I recently attempted to read Disgrace and I just couldn't get past the part where the main character attempts more or less exactly this move, less than 20 pages in.

Good for you. I fucking hate that book. And I hate that when it comes up in conversation and I express disgust with the main character, someone will inevitably say, "I know, but it's just so well written."


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 8:06 PM
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I can't really imagine that talking to their advisor or any other senior person in the department could have any impact, though.

Probably not, no. But at least you won't end up caught in the crossfire and with a reputation for undermining your colleagues with their students (even colleagues who should be undermined believe that they shouldn't be undermined -- especially by the new guy). Or maybe physicists are totally different. Maybe they don't have time to be thin-skinned dicks because they're too busy thinking about cool shit all day and then watching Veronica Mars all night.


Posted by: Von Wafer | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 8:09 PM
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132: then you'll have to explain the discrepancy between 17.1 and "answer 1" in 12, because it sure looks like disagreement to me.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 8:11 PM
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133, 134: various aspects of some discussion of it in Philosophy and Animal Life (by whom I can't remember—probably Cora Diamond) made me think it would be interesting, and I also sort of had the impression that the reading of it would be more bearable once I got in a little more. But perhaps not!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 8:12 PM
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Philosophy and Animal Life is highly recommended, by the way.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 8:13 PM
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137: I mean, it shortly switches from a mode where he is a giant, self-centered asshole to one where he is a giant, self-centered asshole and shitty things happen to and around him.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 8:16 PM
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I enjoyed it when I read it, which seems implausible in retrospect because I usually really hate novels where the main character is a thinly digsuised version of what the author believes to be his id that subsequently gets what is coming to id.

I seem to recall enjoying it when I read it, which would be unsurprising, because I usually enjoy precisely those books. I like that way of characterizing it.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 9:50 PM
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133 and 134 lead me to wonder if Sifu and Blume have ever discussed this book with each other.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:07 PM
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141: yes. And now you know pretty much exactly what we said to each other about it, too.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:12 PM
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Actually I probably just said "yeah, I liked it okay. Dunno why."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:18 PM
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I'm taciturn and manly, see.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:18 PM
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Yes, I see.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:20 PM
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136: It's "no" because Answer 1 in 12 is just saying parents worry as part of their job and since sexual predators are the danger du jour they are going to worry about that.

Answer 2 says this is not effective worry, it's displacement worry to avoid thinking about far more likely danger.

Then in Answer 2 Para 2 she says parents should pay attention to what kids are communicating instead of dismissing of sexual predation, sometimes that really does happen.

Cala said very much the same in 17.


Posted by: Biohazard | Link to this comment | 10-26-12 10:39 PM
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Much wisdom in this thread, from ala, Sarah and others.

I know this has gone by, but President Madison, are you out of your mind? The age of consent is 16 or less in every country in Europe except Ireland (in some countries which are generally regarded as civilised it's lower than I would like), and everybody rubs along without being unduly traumatised. You got laid when you were 17, whoopie doo.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 5:10 AM
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ala s/b Cala. This keyboard is foobar.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 5:11 AM
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Yeah, Sarah said it's not wrong, just pointless as there are more worrying things to worry about, and Cala went a bit further and said, well, it is kind of wrong because it's not fair on the good teachers/fathers in the playground/chatty old men on the bus/etc. I'm with Cala, but I do understand that you can't always choose what you worry about!

Although I find it incredibly annoying and unsympathetic in people I know when e.g. they get completely worked up about the idea that their child will be abducted if it steps out the front door alone, but don't bother using car seats correctly.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 5:24 AM
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To add some anecdata to LB's claim, my wife recently received a letter from the small private high school she attended informing her that a male teacher had had inappropriate relations with several female students 30 years ago and appropriate actions were being taken. (The rumors are flying in the alumni/alumni parent community about this. It was widely known that this guy pushed boundaries. It's not really clear what happened to turn this into a scandal now.)

I definitely heard rumors at the medium-sized public high school I went to.

So I'd say it's fairly common, perhaps even at more than 1 in 4 schools, to hear of relationships between teachers and students. But it's by far most common for those situations to involve (a) older students who (b) consent. The adult in the situation is definitely showing poor judgment and recklessly taking advantage of a younger person in a subordinate position, but this is not what most people consider "legitimate molestation."


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 6:33 AM
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I just remembered that my girlfriend senior year in high school had a close relationship with one of her teachers. One time he invited her to dinner at his house alone (he was young and single). I insisted on going along, even though I wasn't really invited and she protested that it was all completely on the up-and-up. He was a really nice guy and I came to believe his intentions were pure. But in retrospect, what in the hell was he thinking? What's the (non-sexual, non-predatory) upside in having a teenage student dine privately in your home?


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 6:39 AM
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I would describe myself as disagreeing with Wynde, but not substantially. I understand why people worry about predators; it's horrible, and it gets a lot of media attention. But I still think it makes it wrong to suspect someone for no reason and the Bayesians will cut you.



Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 8:26 AM
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FWIW, there was at least one relationship between a teacher and student that I remember from my high school. It officially started after she left, and they remained a publicly acknowledged couple for at least a year or two [after which I have no knowledge]. However, I think very few people believed something hadn't been going on while she was still a student. She would have been around 16-17 at the time. Of age, but not by much. He was older. Thirties, I think.

These days, in the UK, that'd be illegal. Age of consent being 16, ordinarily, but 18 if one of the people is an adult in a position of authority.

On the other hand, we had one teacher widely regarded as attractive who had the older girls virtually throwing themselves at him. I remember in a couple of classes feeling somewhat sorry for the poor sod, as the innuendoes, and half-arsed attempts at seduction came thick and fast in his direction: 'Do you like my new shirt, sir? Do you not think it shows off my figure?'

He handled it fairly well. He replied with a bit of cheeky banter of his own, but the banter wasn't flirtatious. Or didn't seem that way to me at the time.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 8:33 AM
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Throwing my hat in the rink for knowing at least one case of a teacher declaring his undying love for a student when I was in high school. Her mom found the letter and he resigned over it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 8:35 AM
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I had a college friend who's mom was a high school teacher who always slept with her students. I once stayed overnight at their house -- my friends joked I didn't need to worry because I was too old. (I was 21 at the time.)


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 8:40 AM
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153.2 is true here in many or perhaps even all states. As a foster parent, I'm not allowed to have sex with any foster children in my care even if they're old enough to consent to sex with other people, which is more than fine with me.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 8:52 AM
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156: that all sounds reasonable. The age of consent in Ireland is 17 for compromise reasons (it used to be 16 for heterosexuals and 18 for gay men) but I would bet most people probably think it's 16.
There was one teacher in my school who later married a former student but no suggestion there had been anything untoward between them. While I was there, one student alleged she was having an affair with a teacher and the school had a full blown investigation, though most of the students reckoned there was no basis to it (this girl was constantly full of Walter Mitty stories, like one week she claimed she had been stopped on the street and asked to be a model and she was moving to London straight away but none of it ever materialised. )We were sorry for the teacher in question who was charismatic in his own way but if anything rather formal with us. She left the school and I hope she got some counselling because something was wrong there.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 9:22 AM
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I knew someone who had married her former Oxford tutor, but that was in the 40's, and I don't know whether they dated before she graduated.

I do get nervous about these kinds of relationships even when the adults are consenting, but, of course, many of them work out quite well.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 10:35 AM
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re: 158

Particularly then, but even now, there might only be one or two years between the tutor and student. The tutor could be as young as 23, and the student not much younger. Also, the relationship between student and tutor isn't always a close one, or one in which the tutor has any power. The tutor might just be teaching a single series of tutorials lasting a few months, and never see the student again. I knew a few people who dated one of their students [not me, personally] and I can't say I got particularly worked up about it. Two people in their twenties, going out, whatever.

I remember having a (social/platonic) drink with one of my students, and an older female visiting American post-doc being scandalised as she somehow read some kind of improper relationship into it. Which was particularly odd, as we were both [student and I] in our mid to late twenties, and having a drink together because we were members of the same graduate common room [she was doing a second BA, so wasn't a member of the junior common room].


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 10:47 AM
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158: I don't know about the age difference. She had finished school at whatever age private girls day schools in Wales ended. He was a Rhodes scholar from Australia who was married with a child but then divorced after his first wife was permanently committed to a psychiatric asylum. It may actually have been in the 30's, because I think they were married during the War.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-27-12 11:06 AM
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150: hey, yawnoc: fuck off!

to the OP, really, your daughter talks about the latest funny thing one or the other of these dudes has done all the time? who talks about their HS teachers all the time? does she talk about her female teachers all the time? that said, they aren't likely to both be evil bastards.

people have been suggesting that you have a discussion with your daughter about what's right and wrong in these situations, and I think that's excellent advice. but it doesn't make sense to put the burden on not getting molested on her. other children don't get molested merely because they weren't educated properly about it (although that may, indeed, be part of why; that's one of the reasons predators pick on people with fucked-up families.)

it's important to keep in mind, though, that one of these guys might be someone whom your daughter respects, idolizes, and has a serious confused crush on in her little budding sexual self. if that person said, "little miss paranoid paul, I love you more than life itself. our love knows no boundaries. you must never speak of this to anyone or they will tear us apart and destroy my life. this will be our burning secret," then she ain't going to say shit to you.

I would say, rather, as some others have advised, go talk to the teachers. there's surely some prescribed time, but as a parent you could just say, "oh, I happen to have this weekday off work and I'd like to come in and chat with l'il miss PP's teacher's," and the school will arrange it. merely speaking with them will let them know you're on the case; you don't have to go in with an axe handle on your shoulder or anything. finally, there's something in the way you put this discussion that makes me feel really sad for the vulnerable children with the incompetent parents, like you're running them into the bushes to flush game and they're going to get a world of buckshot coming at them. too bad, kids from dysfunctional families! stagger on out there on your fawn-like legs, cuter, more vulnerable children! my still quite attractive, but in a more subdued and age-appropriate way, well-supported child has got harvard applications to fill out.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 10-28-12 7:11 PM
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161: Um, what?


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 10-29-12 6:35 AM
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162: 161.1 presumably to the idea of consent in a teacher-student relationship.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-29-12 8:09 AM
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