There’s an illness going around today that seems to attack one’s moral immune system.
Call it the “virtue flu.”
It seems there’s an outbreak of predatory teachers preying on their students for sexual and ego gratification – breaking all sorts of laws and despoiling children by stripping away their innocence.
Just this week, we learned that middle school special education teacher Allison Leigh Chilton, 27, of Manning, S.C., had been arrested for an alleged inappropriate relationship with a 12-year-old student. The teacher at Oakbrook Middle School in Ladson, near Charleston, is accused of kissing the girl and sending her sexual text messages.
In 2016, Indiana substitute teacher Kisha Nuckols, 40, admitted having inappropriate relationships with multiple students, including a 17-year-old at her home while her husband and children were upstairs.
In Texas last month, a father allegedly caught teacher Kisha Nuckols, 40, having sex with his 13-year-old son in a car. Further evidence of an improper relationship was reportedly found on the boy’s cell phone.
In Missouri, middle school teacher Amanda Schweitzer, 37, is the subject of multiple lawsuits for alleged inappropriate conduct with three boys under 15. News reports say she allegedly “groomed” the boys “by sending them increasingly suggestive and sexual text and social media messages.”
In California last year, high school math teacher Craig Branstetter was accused of having sex three times in his car with a student with whom he’d also sent lewd messages.
Also in California, a lawsuit against former high school teacher Corine Audiat, then 32, accuses her of “grooming” a 16-year-old student with flirting and texting before having sex with him. She pleaded no contest to two felonies last month, but was not expected to receive jail time.
The cases go on and on and on.
What makes these people think their actions are in any way acceptable? And how does their status as clean, trusted, socially respectable school employees make them any better than the proverbial child molester lurking in the streets and alleys?
In many ways, they’re worse than street predators, because they have callously shattered the immense faith society – and in particular parents – have put in them.
If this were indeed a plague of predators waiting outside schools, you bet there’d be a national uproar. Remember the sudden and bizarre eruption of clowns reportedly frightening children several years ago? Some of the reports were debunked, but it still caused a brief nationwide panic.
So why is this contagion that’s spreading throughout classrooms receiving so much less attention? And why aren’t we caucusing to discuss the problem and its solutions?
Predators have always sought young prey. But it’s likely the instances are growing in number and severity due to a perfect storm of factors, including increased sexualization at earlier ages; decreased virtue among custodial adults; light sentences for the perpetrators; and, hauntingly, easy access to our children’s private lives through smart phones.
We need to start hammering these predators – strangely, several of the above cases involved little or no jail time. And parents of middle schoolers and elementary school students should rethink the wisdom of providing them with a vehicle to take out on the information superhighway.
The virtue flu is out there.