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As the Village Turns

An epidemic in our schools


Gwen Anne Cardozo, 33, an English teacher at Wasson - High, is the latest to be accused of having sex with a - student.
  • Gwen Anne Cardozo, 33, an English teacher at Wasson High, is the latest to be accused of having sex with a student.

Today we will engage in a serious and mature discussion of a drastic sociological and behavioral change in our society, one involving the relationship between schoolteachers and their students. Because of the delicate nature of this subject, I would hope we could conduct this discussion without any juvenile and immature comments. An example would be:

Schoolboy No. 1: "Did you have Mrs. Finchgarth in science last year?

Schoolboy No. 2: "Yup. I also had her under her desk, in the football bleachers and on a cafeteria table."

OK then. Let's proceed.

Unlike today's middle school and high school students, I never fantasized about having sex with my teachers. This was due in some part to a good upbringing by loving parents who taught me right from, well, from something. But mostly it was because during my formative years all of my female teachers either A. were huge, B. were old, C. had hairy warts the size of quarters on their faces or D. were old, huge and had hairy warts the size of quarters on their faces.

Today, of course, a lot has changed. Because America puts such a high priority on education, teachers' salaries now average roughly $119 per year -- although they get summers off -- and therefore they are unable to buy food. This keeps them slim. And because of the ensuing starvation, there are, fortunately, no more old teachers.

In addition, because of advancements in dermatology, the quarter-sized hairy warts can now be removed safely and painlessly with lasers in a doctor's office.

But she loved him

All of which has apparently resulted in teachers and their students being attracted to each other and, after a long and romantic courtship period highlighted by a game of "Spin the Lunchbox," they have sex. This makes a lot of us long for the good old days, when "clap" was something you did with the chalkboard erasers.

Frankly, the whole thing has become an epidemic in our schools and in schools in other countries, too. Take this actual news story from the BBC News in December of last year:

School teacher Shelley White, 24, of High Green in Sheffield, has been charged with abusing a position of trust by causing or inciting sexual activity with a 15-year-old boy at her school. The incidents are alleged to have taken place in a school in Castleford, West Yorkshire.

As you know, it's not easy to incite sexual activity in a typical 15-year-old boy. In most cases, according to experts in the field of sexual behavior, such a thing requires that a female actually enter the room or that, lacking that event, the 15-year-old boy thinks about a female entering the room.

(As for English people engaging in sex in general, I think I speak for the group here when I say: "Eewwwwww! They're all white and pasty and ... Prince Charles and Camilla ... eewwwwww!")

But the real problem is right here in our own country. The exceptions would be Minnesota (too cold) and South Dakota (no teachers).

Experts say the epidemic in the United States began in 1996 in the town of Gig Harbor, Wash., when 42-year-old grade school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau -- combining the French words Le "the" and tourneau "tour you will never forget" -- began having sex with 12-year-old student Vili Fualaau.

Letourneau, who was married and had four children, said she loved her student -- enough to let him get her pregnant. She was sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to stay away from Vili. Then she gave birth to the baby. When she got out of jail the happy couple resumed having sex and she became pregnant again, despite Vili's use of a condom. (Footnote: By "use" I mean he filled it with water, scampered onto the roof of Letourneau's house and dropped the water balloon on his startled fifth-grade friends.)

She was sent back to prison for seven years and was released earlier this month.

Trail of Tootsie Roll Pops

And then there's another well-adjusted teacher, 23-year-old Debra LaFave (another French word: "the favor") of Tampa, Fla., who is accused of having a sexual affair with a 14-year-old student at school and, this is the good part, in the backseat of a car while it was being driven by the 14-year-old's cousin.

LaFave's attorney said his client would plead innocent by reason of insanity at her trial later this month.

Sheesh. You leave one lousy trail of Tootsie Roll Pops in the hallway leading to your darkened classroom, and everyone thinks you're nuts.

And our very own state has now checked in with a pair of similar incidents. At Ponderosa High in Douglas County, sheriff's investigators say social studies teacher Nicole Barnhart, 35, had numerous sexual encounters with a 16-year-old boy who can now recite all the names of the rulers of the Ottoman Empire and, according to law enforcement officials, all the colors of Mrs. Barnhart's thongs.

And finally, there's our very own Gwen Anne Cardozo, 33, a married English teacher at Wasson High. Last week she was charged with having sex numerous times with a 17-year-old student.

Call me paranoid, but maybe school administrators should start paying just a bit more attention to who they hire to teach our kids.

Because if they don't, someone is going to wind up with Michael Jackson as his music teacher.


Listen to Rich Tosches Thursday mornings on the "Coffey and Alisha Show" on KVUU-FM, 99.9.

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