Betsy Karasik caused a stir over on the Washington Post this weekend. The former lawyer turned writer penned an op-ed post in response to Montana Judge Todd Baugh sentencing a 49 year-old schoolteacher, Stacey Dean Rambold, to just 30 days in prison for the statutory rape of a 14 year-old student, Cherice Morales, who committed suicide at age 16. Karasik’s piece somewhat sympathizes with the teachers who, if you read between her lines, could be considered victims as well:
I do think that 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. But the utter hysteria with which society responds to these situations does less to protect children than to assuage society’s need to feel that we are protecting them. I don’t know what triggered Morales’s suicide, but I find it tragic and deeply troubling that this occurred as the case against Rambold wound its way through the criminal justice system. One has to wonder whether the extreme pressure she must have felt from those circumstances played a role.
I’ve been a 14-year-old girl, and so have all of my female friends. When it comes to having sex on the brain, teenage boys got nothin’ on us. 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. . . .
The point is that there is a vast and extremely nuanced continuum of sexual interactions involving teachers and students, ranging from flirtation to mutual lust to harassment to predatory behavior. Painting all of these behaviors with the same brush sends a damaging message to students and sets the stage for hypocrisy and distortion of the truth. Many teenagers are, biologically speaking, sexually mature. Pretending that this kind of thing won’t happen if we simply punish it severely enough is delusional.
I wonder if Karasik would feel the same way if the victim was her 14-year-old daughter? I’m not sure what law school Karasik attended, or how someone can lack common sense to understand the dynamics between a student and teacher. Sex between a teacher and a student is about power. Sex between and adult student and minor is sexual abuse. There is nothing consensual about it. The fact that Karasik tries to blur the lines between these types of relationships is somewhat disappointing. Especially trying to do it while citing the suicide of a teen and basically a rapist getting off scot-free.
Maybe Karasik and the judge in this case need to spend time with victims of child molesters and rapists before they try to dole out advice and sentences.
Former Lawyer Pens Washington Post Op-Ed Saying Teachers Shouldn’t Be Jailed For Sex With Students