The Epidemic of School Sex Abuse

In March, a Florida school district that was already dealing with one teacher being arrested for teacher-student sexual relations had to deal with another young female teacher involved with an underage boy.
Anecdotal evidence and statistical studies hint that sex abuse in American public schools is at epidemic proportions and that school districts regularly sweep the problem under the carpet — moving offending teachers on with glowing references just to transfer the trash. Cynics say the reason the problem doesn’t surface in the press is because public schools are shielded by legislation that protects their assets from being seized in lawsuits. “Where there’s no money,” the argument goes, “there’s no lawyer; and where there’s no lawyer, there’s no story.”
Catholics, still reeling from the sex-abuse scandals in the Church, may be inclined to wag a finger and say, “You see, Catholic priests are not the only pedophiles. School teachers are worse!” That may be true, but such shrill complaints are likely to be counterproductive. Critics of the Church will think Catholics are trying to shift attention elsewhere.
Better to leave the comparisons to priestly abuse on one side and deal with the core problem — which, in both cases, is essentially the same. Because of the invention of the contraceptive pill and the sexual revolution of the Sixties, members of our society regard sex as an activity for recreation, not procreation.
Educators, doctors, psychologists, and humanists consider it healthy and wholesome for young people to be sexually active pretty much as soon as they are physically able. Sex education is taught in a values-free environment, where the only negative thing is a sexually transmitted disease. Even an unwanted pregnancy is not considered a setback; the girl can simply have the pregnancy “terminated.” In such an environment, anything goes; and where anything goes, anyone is fair game.
We have gotten used to the idea that college campuses are a sexual playground, but the same is true of our high schools. A local public high school in our town recently stopped giving out hall passes during study periods because boys and girls were meeting up to engage in sexual activity. Stories are flying that in another local school district they have decided to put closed circuit televisions on their school busses, due to the rampant sexual activity going on while other teenage passengers watch and cheer on the act.
If this is the real situation for young people in our society today, is it any wonder that novice high school teachers fall in with their teen students? If sex education is taught in a values-free environment, and from puberty onward young people are told by parents, teachers, teen magazines, the media, and their peers that sex is just a healthy past time, why should we suddenly expect girls and guys fresh out of college to instantly develop some sort of sexual morality?
For a decade of their lives, the young people who are now teachers have lived in an environment where everyone was a legitimate sexual partner. When the teachers were in high school, most of the teens were sexually active. Now, when they return as young teachers, it seems virtually everyone is.
Where were they supposed to find scruples about going out with a desirable 16-, 15-, 14-, or 13- year-old boy or girl? For that matter, why should members of our society (who have insisted on the sexual free-for-all) suddenly tell them that there are some boundaries, and that they can be arrested and go to jail for what they regard as no more harmful than a good game of tennis?
You understand I am not condoning such behavior. I am simply observing that secular, sexually promiscuous people who have been taught a recreational view of sex in a totally amoral context have no real reason for disciplining their sexual behavior. They just don’t have the tools in their toolbox.
Furthermore, given the relativistic atheistic education most college students have received, they have no philosophical or moral groundwork on which to construct a coherent sexual code of behavior. The authorities tell a new teacher that he or she is not to have a sexual relationship with a student. However, the authorities dare not (and cannot) tell the new teacher why such a relationship is forbidden.
Is it forbidden simply because the person is below a certain age? There is no logic for such an arbitrary decision. If the student consents and is already sexually active anyway, why would a certain age limit in itself provide a prohibition?
Is the relationship forbidden because it is assumed that the older person is exploiting the younger? The reverse may be the case. A sexually precocious teenager can be more predatory than a teacher. Indeed, some teachers have reported sexual harassment from students.
Is the sexual liaison forbidden because the teacher and student are in a professional relationship? The libertine will argue that, so long as the relationship takes place outside the professional context, there is nothing wrong with it. What the student and teacher do in their free time is beyond question.
Lawmakers and judges may, for the time being, enforce age limits for sexual activity, but without an underlying philosophical and moral foundation, those limits will seem increasingly arbitrary and absurd, and we should not be surprised when rules governing ages for sexual behavior are challenged.
The volcano of human sexuality can only be controlled for a deeper reason. Erotic desire, sexual instinct, and sentimentality are not enough. It is only by a thoroughgoing philosophical and theological explication of the human person that the mystery of human sexuality can be understood.
Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body offers us the only way out of the present moral chaos. There we find that the dignity of human sexuality is grounded in the intrinsic dignity of each human being. The sexuality of that innate dignity is exalted and glorified within the sacrament of marriage, which in turn produces the fruit of new human life. Any behavior, therefore, that cheapens or destroys marriage cheapens and destroys human dignity.
This is why high school teachers having sex with students is wrong — because it cheapens and destroys the one thing that makes human sexuality sacred, and therefore cheapens and destroys the integrity of the human person. Only when our society recognizes a deeper reason for sexuality will we have the grounds to properly control sexual misbehavior.
Until then, be prepared for the assault of that debauched hoyden Sexual Anarchy, and her terrible sister Despair.

Rev. Dwight Longenecker

By

Rev. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is The Romance of Religion published by Thomas Nelson. Check out his website and blog at www.dwightlongenecker.com.

  • Fr. Joseph

    Government schools are funded by money taken by force from citizens, in order to confer a private benefit on other citizens. Thus, they are part of a system of theft. They were not part of the American Founding, but imposed on the American people by elaborate subterfuges, by people (Socialists and Humanists) who hated the Republic established by the U.S. Constitution.

    School, in general, is the most destructive, most expensive, longest-running hoax in history. Most destructive and most expensive are schools run by government.

  • Olivia

    Public schools promote immoral behavior in our youth. The only antidote is to bring prayer back into the schools and foster devotion and understanding of the virtues asked of us by Our Lady of America when She appeared in Rome City, IN in 1956. Learn more at http://www.oltiv.org and save your country by saving your children from immoral behavior being promoted in our public schools.

  • TKB

    to protect those who couldn’t afford a private protestant school from being raised in the many free Catholic schools of the day which was at the time the only 2 games in town.

    Public school was designed in bigotry of the Church.

  • Cynthia Heimsoth

    “Critics of the Church will think Catholics are trying to shift attention elsewhere.”

    Has anybody considered the flip side — that the outrageous media attention given child sexual abuse in the Church as opposed to schools (, Boy/Girl Scout troops, sports teams, etc. etc. etc.) is strictly and solely a factor of the media’s bias against the Church? Therefore, there’s no point in bringing up abuse in other places — the abuse isn’t the point, “that rotten old nasty Church” is.

    The Know-Nothings live!

    Cynthia

  • Petrus Vectorius

    I wonder how long can stand legislation that protects public school’s assets from being seized in lawsuits. They are no longer very public. They are paid by everybody and answerable to nobody for nothing. As seen in the Massachusetts Lexington legal case agains David Parker, the hired lawbreaking Principal can throw out a paying Parents from their schools for demands that the school obeys the law, and informs the parents do thety plan will to teach sodomy.

    http://massresistance.com/

    If we can gradually change law so that the nonprofit organization has to civil lawsuit damaged even for 25 years old of their employees, we can surely just modify yet another law to seize all assets of these irresponsible schools.

  • Jimmy

    This article says that a proper moral education would would keep teachers from sexually abusing children, but why didn’t the great moral education the Catholic priests had keep them from molesting children?

  • art

    you said in your article:
    “Better to leave the comparisons to priestly abuse on one side and deal with the core problem — which, in both cases, is essentially the same. Because of the invention of the contraceptive pill and the sexual revolution of the Sixties, members of our society regard sex as an activity for recreation, not procreation”

    First, if you are finally ready to concede that there is no difference between the Church and any other institution, there is no ontological difference between a Priest (indelible mark and all) and a teacher or any other professional, and that the Church can succumb to error in the same way any group can, then maybe we can say its apples to apples.

    I fail to see the connection between the wide acceptance of contraception as the fuel for the fire in relation to the church abuse since nearly 100% of it was unaffected by fear of pregnancy-even the girls, the vast majority were too young to conceive.

    And third, until you get your own house in order, no one is going to take anything the Church has to say about morality, the misuse of sexuality or that your way is any more effective an answer to whatever you are calling the “problem” this week. “

  • Hattie

    The issue of child sex abuse is complicated and often misunderstood in a society that approves the public pandering of teen agers, especially by Disney, for billion dollar profits. But, the deeper issue that is of concern is that of the media taking on the role of moral judge and jury, when in fact, we know that most media moguls are proud of their ” no moral absolutes:” philosophy, thus allowing them to pick and chose what and when they will report on an issue.
    Yes, the Church needs to get its house in order, which it has been trying to do for the past 10 years,( including a public apology from Pope Benedict) while at the same time the school system continues to perpetrate the same if not worse behaviors that the media accuses the Chruch of. One need only go on Google and type in :teacher sex abuse” and there are some 18,000,000 listings. So, we are not comparing apples and apples, we are comparing blatant anti-Christian behaviors which attack one organization, while condoning the same if not worse behaviors when it appeals to their pruriant interests and deviant attitudes. So brothers and sisters, let’s deal with the real human crisis, namely that we have created a double standard at least in the media and now don’t want to live in the light of the truth!

  • Liberale

    I think it is ridiculous to link sex education to the increase in high school students engaging in sexual relationships with their teachers and to condemn the current sex education outright! We should not forget that teaching sexuality in a way that encompass not only the procreative aspect but also the recreational aspect freed humanity from the pressures and misconceptions of earlier times. One should watch the movie “Kinsey” to get an idea- and one will also learn by the way very much about the new pressures society faces today. Teachers as well as priests or any other member of the society have to learn that sexuality albeit something healthy contains boundaries such as intercourse with underage/minors or non-consent intercourse. I am doubting that the “Theology of the Body” will necessary sufficient to do it since it deals with the matter in a philosophical way denying the beauty and joy of sexual intercourse (even cohabitation outside of marriage!) but deals with it in an oppressive way. Parents are called to teach these boundaries, since they are the role model. Finally, it is just a minority of priests, teachers and other people in society who physically abuse and exploit minors.

  • Lisa

    I noticed that Fr. Longenecker is from Greenville, South Carolina. He should be aware of a wonderful Catholic organization from Columbia, S.C. called “Family Honor” that teaches family-centered chastity education based upon Pope JPII’s Theology of the Body.

    As a presenter for Family Honor, I can tell you that this is a wonderful program with a hope-filled message about the goodness of our sexuality as God intended it. Nothing oppressive here, just the truth presented in a way that kids (and parents) can understand.

    Check out their website at http://www.familyhonor.org for more information.

  • RooForLife

    Lisa wrote: I noticed that Fr. Longenecker is from Greenville, South Carolina. He should be aware of a wonderful Catholic organization from Columbia, S.C. called “Family Honor” that teaches family-centered chastity education based upon Pope JPII’s Theology of the Body.

    As a presenter for Family Honor, I can tell you that this is a wonderful program with a hope-filled message about the goodness of our sexuality as God intended it. Nothing oppressive here, just the truth presented in a way that kids (and parents) can understand.

    Check out their website at http://www.familyhonor.org for more information.

    I checked out your site and while there I noticed that they had The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Annual Survey of Adults and Teens Released and also was NOTED: Note from Family Honor: The survey results shown above are from a survey conducted by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. While much of the survey is interesting and provides updated information on what some parents and teens across the United States are thinking, it should also be noted that The National Campaign has a “mixed message” approach to the problem of teen pregnancy, in contrast to Family Honor’s belief in chastity. The information above is taken from their spring, 2005 newsletter, Campaign Update.

    Not only do they have a mixed message they are in concert with the Advocates For Youth and Planned Parenthood.

    That should also be NOTED by the family Honor site as PP murders more than 250,000 unborn babies a year! The Advocates For Youth fight against abstinence only programs.

  • Will Potter

    The pandemic of sexual immorality in students as well as the teachers is certaily evident of “the chickens returning to roost. A major contributor of this penomena is the fact that the “public educations system” have bought into the immoral philosophy of “sex education” which is little more than sexual perverts having a captive audience (our public school students) to advance their perverted teachings. Sex education is required in public education.
    However, what do we need to teach children about “sex” in middle school and even now in elementary? What is the philosophy: “safe sext, sexual tolerance (gays, lesbians, transvestites, transgenders, you name it). The exclusion of “abstinence or the morals of the bible, (forbiding fornication, sex is for marriage).
    What are the results of the public school philosophy? (increase in teenage pregnancel, increase in STD’s, including HIV, single parenting, increase dropout rates)
    What happened to teachiong about math and reading skills, which by the way has declined.
    Is any one listing, anyone with their eyes open? Where are the parents, whereare the religious teachers and leaders?

    Will Potter

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