In the past five years, more than 175 Florida teachers have lost their licenses for sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate comments to touching and affairs with students, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Other teachers have been accused of or arrested for alleged sexual misdeeds. Experts disagree about whether sexual misconduct by teachers is on the rise or if victims and their families are simply more willing to come forward. “It’s becoming more frequently reported,” said Dennis Siegel of the Broward State Attorney’s Office.
The Sun-Sentinel examined the cases of 50 South Florida teachers who have forfeited their careers over inappropriate conduct or relationships with students since 2005. Nearly 20 percent were women. The majority of the teachers worked in high schools, and about one-third were in their 20s when the relationships began, making them only a few years senior to their students. Only 40 percent of the teachers were charged criminally, and the punishment varied significantly. Some were put on probation while one male teacher got a 43-year prison term for having sex for more than a year with a 13-year-old male student. The outcome of cases depends on the evidence, the cooperation of the student, the age difference between teacher and student, and the wishes of the family. Courts, like the public, can be easier on women. “One of the realities we have to look at when we gauge what to do with a case is what is the expected outcome if it went to trial,” Siegel said. “A significant amount of jurors believe that a female teacher-male student, what’s wrong with that?”