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March Mania

Editorial: A letter to inappropriate teachers

A letter to any educator who has inappropriately interacted with a student, or to anyone headed down that path:

Think about what you’re doing. Think about the lives you’re ruining – your own as well as that of the victim. And we say “victim” because that’s what the young person is. The student may seem like an adult, but studies show young brains are not fully capable of making sound decisions. You’ve taken advantage of that.

You see, you’re a predator. Instead of molding that young brain educationally, you’re molding it to satisfy yourself.

Why are we convinced you are out there, possibly reading this? Because history in our region tells us this plague won’t go away.

Back in 2016, the Grand Forks Herald reported that since 2011, there had been at least five cases in North Dakota when a teacher’s license had been revoked for inappropriate relations with students.

At that time, the case involving a Grand Forks teacher was in the news. He admitted to having sex multiple times with a student and was headed to jail for his actions.

In 2014, Bemidji, Minn., elementary teacher Paul Joseph Johnson was sentenced to jail for a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old student.

In 2016, former Bottineau, N.D., teacher Marissa Deslauriers was sentenced to jail after she was involved in sex crimes with teenage boys.

In 2017, former substitute teacher Tara Nichols of Glyndon, Minn., was charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct, but those charges were dropped after authorities learned the boy had withdrawn from school before the two allegedly had sex.

With all those headlines, we would think all teachers would grasp the severity of this problem, but that’s not the case.

This year in Williston, N.D., Everest Moore, a Catholic school teacher and coach, was charged with eight counts of gross sexual imposition.

This year in Duluth, middle school teacher Karla Jean Winterfeld pleaded guilty to a felony charge of sexual conduct with a former student.

And this week, former West Fargo teacher Shannon Moser tearfully apologized to a judge as she was sentenced to 10 years in jail for having sex with a student, sharing nude photos with him and giving him tobacco products.

We sympathize with the student, but Moser’s tears do not move us whatsoever. She knew her actions are not only against the law but also morally wrong because as a teacher, she was entrusted with the care of her students.

This is a scourge. According to a 2004 report by the U.S. Department of Education, one in 10 children will experience some form of sexual misconduct by teachers. If so, it’s more than 4 million students nationwide.

So, to inappropriate teachers out there, we say this: If you don’t get caught, you still will live with the knowledge that you corrupted a child entrusted to your care.

Luckily, you probably will get caught and face the consequences for your misdeeds. You’ll lose your job, possibly your spouse and you’ll probably go to jail. Your name will be on TV and in newspapers. You’ll forever be remembered as a disgrace.

Is it worth it?