May 30, 2009
A Florida Epidemic: Female Teachers Sleeping with Their Students
Posted: 07:08 PM ET
If you're the parent of a teen-aged boy in Florida, you probably muttered "not again" while reading your morning newspaper this week. There on the front page was yet another case of an adult female teacher being arrested for admitting to having had sex with an underage male student. This time the alleged perp was Maria Guzman Hernandez, a 32-year-old instructor at the private Our Lady of Charity school in Hialeah; her victim was 15. But she just as well could have been the 34-year-old Jacksonville public-school science teacher arrested last month for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old student, once in her SUV; or the 32-year-old St. Petersburg teacher collared in March for allegedly "sexting" nude pictures of herself to an 8th-grade boy; or the 45-year-old teacher at a private Christian academy in South Daytona arrested days before for allegedly having sex with a boy from her class in various Daytona Beach hotels.
Other female teachers in Florida have been booked for the same crime this year — and scores of others have also been arrested or disciplined in the past few years for sexual misconduct with students, according to a recent investigation by the Orlando Sentinel, which noted the problem is rising in the state "among female educators in particular." Florida, of course, is hardly the only state where female teachers have been nabbed for preying on boys. And nationwide, male teachers still commit far more sexual misconduct than females. A 2004 Education Department study found that about 10% of the nation's 50 million public-school students had experienced some kind of improper sexual attention from teachers and other school employees; and a 2007 Associated Press report indicated that men were involved almost 90% of the time. What's more, even in Florida those offenders are a small fraction of the state's more than 200,000 public and private school teachers. (View the Top 10 Crime Stories of 2008.)
But parents and prosecutors alike are nonetheless asking why the female version of pedagogue perversion seems more common on their peninsula compared to other places. "It certainly seems more prevalent, although we can't say for sure if it's worse than other large states," says Michael Sinacore, the Hillsborough County assistant state attorney who, in 2005, prosecuted one of Florida's most high-profile cases, that of Tampa middle-school teacher Debra Lafave, a blond siren who pleaded guilty to lewd and lascivious behavior after being charged with having sex with a 14-year-old boy. (In a controversial decision, a judge did not make her serve prison time.) "None of us can really say why at this point."
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