It seems every school year a case of a student and a teacher having intimate relations makes headlines. Well we’re only into the first week of school and we already have a situation at Steinert High School in Hamilton Township. The teacher is a 24-year-old male and the student is a 17-year-old senior.

The age of consent for sexual relations in New Jersey is 16. However, if you are a teacher a coach or a guardian, then it is a criminal matter.

This young man faces sexual assault charges that could put him in prison and label him as a sex offender for the rest of his life. No doubt he used poor judgment and made a bad decision. The same could be said for some of these students but for him as a teacher, the consequences are much greater.

We discussed the case the other day on the air along with stories about student/teacher liaisons that happened years ago. Back in the day, police were never involved and many times it was an open secret that no one openly took any action on. Maybe the parents knew and maybe some teachers knew but it wasn’t elevated to the level of a crime.

Well now in New Jersey it is a crime. So this young man faces four counts of sexual assault and one count of second-degree child endangerment. If this was as consensual as most of these trysts turn out to be, there should be no sexual assault charge. Although the young lady is not quite 18 she has passed the age of consent, which again in New Jersey is 16.

I am not condoning what this young man did. It was wrong. He exercised poor judgment and a lack of restraint and self-control. What about the young woman?

There are rules against this sort of thing to prevent any kind of favoritism or unwanted drama. If he were not a teacher and had just met her at the pool this summer there would be no charges. Perhaps her parents would’ve been upset and had a good talking to with the young man but there would be no criminal charges.

Again, what they both did was wrong and he bears more of the responsibility since he was a teacher. But it’s not sexual assault and it’s not endangering the welfare of a child. It’s pure lust perhaps. In many cases where this happens with a male teacher, the female student is not some shy wilting flower that was taken advantage of.

It’s amazing that this happens multiple times every school year even with teachers knowing the dire consequences they face here in New Jersey if they get caught. Let’s not be naïve and pretend that the sexual power of a young woman, or a woman of any age for that matter, is an immensely powerful force in the world. Apparently and most definitely scientifically, hormones are the most powerful driving force in human behavior.

I guess people think that no one will talk or it’s just a quick passing-thing secret that will be a distant memory. But in many cases, a jealous party — either one of the girl’s friends, perhaps, or a boyfriend — will find out and alert the school and the parents. No one knows exactly how any given set of parents would react. But the school is required to notify authorities, as they did in this case. The teacher is suspended with the intention to dismiss and faces very serious charges and a lifelong label as a sex offender.

While people are so eager to ruin this man’s life over a consensual indiscretion, think of the young woman as well. She will have to live with the stigma and shame and possible guilt for what will happen to him because of their actions together. Temptation + hormones = big trouble.

When we discuss this on the air last week, we took some grief from one or two people who thought we were taking the teacher’s side. The only side we’re taking is that of common sense and compassion. If God forbid that was your son or brother or nephew would you want him facing the same fate? Is he actually a sex offender? Did he actually commit sexual assault? Or is he just guilty of really poor decision-making that will cost him his job and career?

While violent, criminal, repeat offenders are let back on the street the day of or days after a serious, heinous crime, we tend to focus our attention and the media glare on sensational stories like this. With potential consequences being far worse for the alleged perpetrator.

I am the father of a daughter and two sons. I’ve seen my share of tough situations in raising all three. Any mature, reasonable person would come to the conclusion that perhaps this young man doesn’t have the wisdom or character to be a teacher but certainly doesn’t deserve the label of sex offender, either.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Dennis Malloy only.

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