MASS EXODUS OF TEACHERS FROM ODESSA, TEXAS SCHOOLS OVER POSSIBLE IMPROPER TEACHER/STUDENT RELATIONS

Five teachers resigned from Ector County Independent School District in Odessa, Texas over the past year in the face of pending allegations of improper relations between teachers and students; one teacher, who resigned over such accusations, Mark Lampman (47), was found dead on Wednesday. Local reports suggest that he took his life although official details are not entirely known. Lampman was a 17-year veteran teacher at Permian high school in Odessa. Meanwhile, other teachers are embroiled in a scandal based on similar allegations of student/teacher misconduct. Kathryn Maples and April Collins resigned from Permian High School in April of 2013 and have since been indicted. Alicia Knighten resigned in April of this year; she worked at a junior high school and Permian High School.  At least one other teacher was accused of such conduct and later acquitted in court. The exact details of the allegations have not been disclosed at this time. All parties subjected to such accusations are presumed to be innocent.

COMMENT: As we have stated many times in these pages, the age of consent in student/teacher relationships/encounters is increased in most states. For example, in many jurisdictions (states) a person can consent to sexual relations at the age of 16; however, if one of the people is in a position of authority, (including teachers), the parties must be at least 18. The public policy apparently behind the 18-year-old requirement is that students are particularly vulnerable next to their “teachers” and therefore, not really capable of providing true (or informed) consent. The same rationale is extended to other professionals such as counselors, doctors, therapists, clergy and the like. The consequences for engaging in such practices can be very severe; many states require convicted teachers to register as sex offenders, submit DNA samples, surrender their teaching licenses and face possible jail or prison time. In other words, the stigma from such acts can last a lifetime. Also, all students and teachers in the various districts are impacted by such incidents often prompting unkind and useless commentary (unlike ours here) on the social mediums and at the schools. Additional counseling and education need to be provided to teachers and students on these issues. The rapidity of texting and similar tools have created an environment where things are said quickly (and permanently) without much thought; it has been said that “words are hard to take back”- this has even greater meaning today.  And remember, from a criminal defense perspective, images (“selfies,” etc.) do not always go away- pictures can be taken of pictures first.

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