Integrity Matters
May 4, 2005

Media spotlight unjustly shines on Letourneau

Question: (E-183)

Dear Jim:

Where is the integrity surrounding Mary Kay Letourneau, a married 35-year-old public school teacher who had a sexual affair (twice) with a 13-year-old, one of her middle-school students? Now she is a celebrity - made famous by the media!


Parents send their children to school to learn. They have every right to expect the school environment to be safe and nurturing. When teachers and leaders of youth are out of control, creating uncertainty and instability, then changes will be made and restrictions increased. Teachers are taught appropriate standards of behavior that must never be violated. As stewards of value and content education, they are expected to be role models, inside and outside the classroom.

Letourneau, a Seattle-area schoolteacher, broke the law along with the rules of common sense and decency, was convicted of second-degree rape and required to serve seven years in prison. She was released in August. Today, she and her "child-lover" are the toast of talk show television. How can a sexual predator, twice convicted of rape, achieve celebrity status? The media made this educator-turned-criminal into a hot topic, perhaps for no other motive than to increase ratings and revenue. How disappointing!

Had a male teacher initiated this type of teacher-student seduction, impregnating a 13-year-old woman, how long might the rapist have been placed behind bars? Upon release from prison, how many responsible news shows would make his story nightly "fodder" for demented "copycats" to emulate?

Letourneau's behaviors are similar to actions taken by pedophile priests. Seduction and abuse of those who aren't in a position to protect themselves - whether in a classroom, the prayer chapel or the workplace - must be stopped. What possible good can be served by providing a convicted felon with a media platform upon which to revise her own sordid history, repackaging her second-degree rape story to justify her behavior?

One middle school teacher's depraved behavior, taken center stage by the media, discounts the hard work and dedication of an overwhelming number of educators.

Real news does not sensationalize and glamorize the activities of an emotionally unstable educator with a sexually active child, day after day and week after week. It's time for the media to celebrate the contributions of millions of teachers who, for their entire careers, quietly and diligently instruct, counsel and mentor tens of millions of young people, with uncompromising integrity. These teachers provide safe and nurturing environments for young people because they know integrity matters.

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