Teacher-student sex cases now reported more
Posted June 18, 2009
Durham, N.C. — Since the beginning of 2008, at least nine teachers or school employees in central North Carolina have been accused of sexual misconduct with students.
In the past month alone, a Durham County grand jury indicted teaching assistant Gina Watring on charges of having a sexual relationship with a Creekside Elementary School student, former Louisburg High School football coach James Collier was placed on probation after pleading guilty to taking indecent liberties with a student and Cumberland County school employee Jeffery Godwin was charged with paying a 15-year-old student for sexual favors.
The number of teacher-student sex cases isn't tracked by a single source, and authorities said cases sometimes go unreported.
Dr. Jonathan Abramowitz, associate chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said he believes the public is more aware today of the potential for abuse than in the past.
"I think it is more on people's radar screens, so those cases are getting reported more," Abramowitz said.
He said educators who get involved with students have one thing in common: sexual disorders like pedophilia.
"There is no specific profile of a pedophile. They are rich, they are poor, they are old, they are young," he said.
Dr. Kristen Wynns, a child psychologist, said some of the cases involving teachers and students aren't about a sexual disorder at all.
"The teacher is emotionally needy, maybe emotionally distressed to begin with," Wynns said. "She might not be having great success in her own marriage or her own relationship, so she turns to students, where she is getting the attention and the affirmation."
She said cell phones and other technology make it easier for some educators to contact students without their parents' knowledge. That makes it more imperative for parents to be aware of what's going on, she said.
Wynns said parents need to be aware of warning signs of an improper relationship between teachers and students, such as an adult showing extra attention to a student or an element of secrecy around the relationship.
"It's important, first of all, for parents just to have open contact, open communication with their kids," she said.
Cathy Paylor, who reared two daughters and is a nanny, said she often questioned her children about their school days.
"I would ask them, how did they feel during the day, did anybody make them feel uncomfortable," Paylor said.
Still, despite the open communication, she said she never talked with them about predator teachers.
"I felt safe with the teachers, and that never came up with the girls," she said. "It really upsets me, because you would think school is a safe place. Now, you think twice."