Earlier this week we talked about the shocking case out in Wyoming Montana where a 49 year old school teacher, Stacey Rambold, received a thirty day jail sentence for raping a 14 year old student who later killed herself. Just yesterday I was commenting to a friend on how I was surprised that the story hasn’t been receiving even more national attention than it has. Apparently I spoke too soon, because at least one editorial columnist at the Washington Post – Betsy Karasik – certainly had something to say on the subject. But against all belief, Betsy seems to think that the sentence Rambold received was a bit too harsh.

Sex between students and teachers should not be a crime

…our society needs to have an uncensored dialogue about the reality of sex in schools.

As protesters decry the leniency of Rambold’s sentence — he will spend 30 days in prison after pleading guilty to raping 14-year-old Cherice Morales, who committed suicide at age 16 — I find myself troubled for the opposite reason. I don’t believe that all sexual conduct between underage students and teachers should necessarily be classified as rape, and I believe that absent extenuating circumstances, consensual sexual activity between teachers and students should not be criminalized. While I am not defending Judge G. Todd Baugh’s comments about Morales being “as much in control of the situation” — for which he has appropriately apologized — tarring and feathering him for attempting to articulate the context that informed his sentence will not advance this much-needed dialogue.

There’s a lot more to read, assuming you didn’t just have your breakfast, but for most people I assume that would be plenty. Where to even begin? Ms. Karasik relates her experiences being a 14 year old girl, saying that she and her classmates thought about sex just as much as the boys. She also goes on to claim that girls were having sex with teachers in high school and college and nobody really got hurt. She generously allows that teachers who are caught “having sex with” (i.e. raping) their students “should be removed from their jobs” but only until they complete “rehabilitation.”

I remain puzzled as to how this managed to make its way onto the pages of the Washington Post, but it has. What should be obvious is that there are two separate but related concepts being placed on trial in Karasik’s column. First, statutory rape laws – flawed as they often are – exist for a reason. It is an accepted part of legal doctrine that children can not give meaningful consent to sex, particularly when it comes to a “relationship” with an adult predator. We can have a debate over what that age of consent should be – and in fact it varies from state to state – but there should be no question that a 49 year old acting out his desires on a 14 year old is miles over wherever that line may be.

But the second issue which the author ignores is one which actually exists outside questions of age. People who are placed in positions of authority and control over others must, for what should be obvious reasons, be restrained from using those positions of influence and control to engage in sexual relations. Doctors are not supposed to bed their patients, religious leaders should most certainly not be entering into carnal relationships with the flock and teachers shouldn’t be doing it with students, even if both are over the age of consent. How this escapes Ms. Karasik is a mystery.

Wesley Smith, at the Corner, sees this in even more blunt terms.

How is society “damaged” by protecting children from predatory teachers? Karasik doesn’t actually say, other than to imply that Morales might not have committed suicide had the criminal case not been pending. Despicable. Oh, and maybe students would be more likely to discuss sexual issues with school counselors.

I repeat, this was published in the Washington Post. How low can we go? I am afraid we are going to find out.

This wasn’t some “Romeo and Juliette” situation where we need to dance around the difficult questions of young people engaging in sex too early with their Main Squeeze after one of them barely passes the age of adulthood. This teacher is a middle aged pedophile, plain and simple. Does that sound judgmental and harsh? Good. Because that’s the name we give to older men (or women in some cases) who have sex with children. And that 14 year old was a child, no matter how “old” she may have acted.

Update: (Jazz) I’ve managed to confuse Montana and Wyoming again. Sorry… another fine product of the New York educational system. *sigh*