Seattleland: The Educational Side of Teacher-Student Sex

Sex with the teacher is risky business—if you’re the teacher. You’ll lose your job, your career, and likely your freedom.

Then again, after prison, you could always go on to stardom, as Mary Kay Letourneau did. Aside from movies and TV shows about her life, the mother of four and her once-12-year-old victim, Vili Fualaau, went on to host “Hot Teacher Night” parties at Seattle nightclubs.

But you should have a post-prison plan, because the odds are, as a teacher or coach, you’re going to get caught, particularly if you’re female. If anyone is going to brag about a sexual conquest, it’s a randy teenage boy who just bagged his biology instructor.

Besides, he’s considered the victim. He may, as do a lot of youths, harbor a libidinous mature-woman fantasy as he listens to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” and seeks schoolroom porn on the web. But, as the experts tell us, a teacher affair poses unexpected psychological and social repercussions for teens.

Still, there’s a lot at stake for the teacher as well. Nevertheless, more than a few are willing to go for it—and sometimes not too brightly.

Take two recent cases.

One, a 43-year-old female prep track coach married to a 76-year-old man, first came under community suspicion because she took one of her teen athletes to the prom, no less.

The other, a 25-year-old teacher, after a school assembly kissed, groped, and then had sex with her teen student in the classroom.

Not exactly clandestine encounters. Even Mary Kay was leery enough to climb into the back seat of a discreetly parked car and steam up the windows.

The sex-in-the-classroom teacher was Meredith Powell of Tacoma, who pleaded guilty last week to rape of a child, 17, and to sexually texting or sending nude photos to two other students, 14 and 16.

“All I will say for the record is that there is way more to that story than just a date to the prom.”

Apparently she thought she was being cautious. When she had sex with one of her Lincoln High teens, she warned him, “This stays between us.” And it likely did—for about as long as it takes to speed-dial a buddy and say, “Dude, you’re not gonna believe this!”

The major tipoff in that case? The girlfriend of one of the boys became suspicious because he suddenly began to like school a whole lot.

As Pierce County deputy prosecutor Heather Demaine writes in court papers, “He decided to tell his girlfriend about the texts, as she felt ‘something fishy’ was going on because he was going to [Powell’s math] class almost every day.”

Remorseful, Powell apologized to a girlfriend of one of the boys, who then told school officials. The cops were called, and the boys told all.

“During his interview,” Demaine reports, “[one teen] disclosed the following: The defendant is his teacher. They sent texts to each other, and she sent him pictures of her naked in a bathtub. [The teen went to her classroom where] the defendant kissed [the teen] and he touched her buttocks and breasts. The defendant touched [the teen’s] chest under his shirt and performed oral sex on him. [The teen] digitally penetrated the defendant.”

Powell, who faces up to a five-year prison term, seemed embarrassed in court last week. “She was going through a difficult time in her personal life,” her attorney said, “and obviously made a lot of bad choices, regrettable choices.”

That seems to describe the coach as well. Melissa Bowerman, the daughter-in-law of late Nike co-founder and former Oregon track coach Bill Bowerman, was accused last week of having sex with a 17-year-old member of her Madras High School track team in eastern Oregon.

Officials have not yet fully detailed the accusations. But Oregon State Police say in a news release that they were tipped off that Bowerman “was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a juvenile male.” She was being held on suspicion of sexual abuse, luring a minor, and online sexual corruption of a child.

Bowerman, who was 37 when she married 70-year-old Jon Bowerman, Bill’s son, six years ago, had coached the Madras track team for two years with her husband. “I still love her and still will,” Jon told The Oregonian, “no matter how this thing turns out.”

He supported her two years ago as well, when she caused a community stir by attending a prom at another high school where she coached, escorting a member of her track team.

She said she went because the boy needed a date. They danced close for a couple songs, but mostly talked about his studies, she explained. But she and her husband were both dismissed as coaches. Said one official, “All I will say for the record is that there is way more to that story than just a date to the prom.”

Though he supports her, hubby Jon now suggests the awkward prom date might have been what educators call a teachable moment.

As he put it last week, “We all should have learned from that.”

Rick Anderson writes about sex, crime, money, and politics, which tend to be the same thing. His new book is Floating Feet: Irregular Dispatches From the Emerald City.

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