Go to Jail

I don’t typically get really pissed off anymore. Today was an exception.

As I sat in a waiting room today awaiting an appointment, I scrolled through my phone for something to occupy my attention until my name was called. I opened the KAKE-TV app and began reading the local news, as I often do with the apps of the three local Wichita news stations. And as I scrolled down, I saw a headline that prompted me to click. The headline read, “Former Eureka teacher & coach pleads guilty in child sex crime case.” Obviously this type of headline caught my eye, considering in 2012, a similar headline ran about me.

sanchezAs the story stated, an attractive female teacher named Kourtnie Sanchez admitted to an inappropriate relationship with three high school boys. And the result of her sentencing hearing today? What was her punishment for haphazardly inviting three high school boys into her sex life? Probation. Fucking probation. I was pissed! I was charged with one girl, she was charged with three boys; I went to prison for two years, she received only eighteen months of probation! She received less probation than I received prison time! And my inner-monologue spoke loudly in my head with the voice of Chris Tucker screaming, “What kind of shit is that?”

I’m not saying I should have been given probation – I’m saying she should go to prison.

This trend is scary, but this trend is sickeningly normal. Scroll through the website comments on these stories and you’ll see the clear discrepancy I’m talking about. In the event that a man commits these actions, he’s a “sick” “twisted” “predator” “pedophile” and should be promptly executed on the school yard lawn (all of which was said about me). However, when a woman commits nearly identical crimes, suddenly it’s the “lucky boy” and “where were those teachers when I was in school” and “she was just teaching him sex education,” and inevitably, some douche bag posts lyrics from Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” (shit, I fucking hate that song).

There is a well-known (yet seldom-remedied) inequality in the punitive measures taken against male teachers and female teachers when a relationship with a student occurs. As I’ve pointed out in “American Horror Story,” teacher-student relationships happen all the time – A LOT. It is the absolute worst and most under-reported problem plaguing the educational system. And when a teacher is caught sending naked pictures like the ones Kourtnie Sanchez sent to numerous male students; or if a teacher is caught having a year-long sexual relationship with a student, as was the case with former Clearwater teacher Cathleen Balman who, in May of 2013 admitted to having a full-on sexual intercourse relationship with a 15-year-old boy that lasted over a year. And her punishment as well? Of course, she was granted probation as well. (For comparison’s sake, my relationship with my former student lasted a mere four weeks, and we “made-out” only four times – we never had sex).

I’m not saying I should have been given probation – I’m saying they should go to prison.

We were teachers. We were mentors, leaders, role models – we were entrusted with the safety and security of these students, and we violated that trust in the worst possible way. How the hell can any parent trust the school system when teachers are taking advantage of students, school districts are sweeping instance-after-instance under the rug, and the judicial system (on which these parents depend for justice) selectively allows some teachers to simply walk away with probation? Explain to me how the fuck probation is supposed to deter this sort of crime. And explain to me this not-so-subtle distinction between the sentencing guidelines for men and women and how they differ in this situation.

balmanThe Balman case really does piss me off. This woman had a year-long sexual affair with this boy, exchanged sext-messages with him, and she’d even groomed him since being his junior high English teacher from several years prior. When it comes to logistical severity, her crime far exceeded mine. And here’s another kicker: We both were prosecuted by the same Sedgwick County Assistant District Attorney: Justin Edwards. Granted, this pear-shaped troglodyte was not just incompetent, he literally embodied the bumbling moron lawyer who would, in any cinematic circumstance, be considered moronic comic relief. But as it was, he was simply moronic. And this dolt couldn’t manage to send a woman – a teacher – to prison who admitted to having repeated sex with a 15-year-old boy, after having me sent to prison for just making-out with a 15-year-old girl a few times (but then again, my sentencing hearing was on the Friday before the 2012 Election Day, the courtroom was full of television cameras, and my judge was running for re-election – fucked by fate, I guess).

I’m not saying I should have been given probation – I’m saying she should go to prison.

0429teachersexgraphicjpg-02270309f1a3a42cA newspaper in New Jersey did an investigative report about this issue. They found that male teachers do indeed received harsher sentences than female teachers who commit the same crime. In fact, the study examined nearly 100 cases and found that 54% of men received prison time and only 44% of women did, and the duration of those sentences differed as well, men getting an average sentence of nearly two-and-a-half years, while women averaged just over eighteen months. So clearly, an imbalance exists.

My prison sentence was appropriate. In fact, I probably deserved more time. The pain I’ve caused is unforgivable. I let more people down than I will ever truly know, and I carry that guilt with me daily. Anyone who was once a student of mine is now in college or beyond, and some still talk to me – they have forgiven me for my actions and accept (and hopefully appreciate) who I am now. And for that, I am exceedingly appreciative. I’ve made no secret of my addiction to sex and my struggles to live a better life. And here’s the thing: If I’d walked away with probation, the extent to which I have changed the very nucleus of my life would have been to a far lesser degree. I do not – at all – regret the time I spent in prison. I was living an out-of-control lifestyle and prison was exactly the punch in the face I needed to get my shit together. As I’ve written before, right now I am the best possible version of myself. And while I still have struggles, I am not even an afterthought of the piece-of-shit human garbage I was in 2009 – Thank God! Now, I live a life worth living rather than a life worth hiding. And if Judge Philip Journey had given me probation on that day, November 2, 2012, there’s a good chance that I would never have come to the realization that I was a sex addict.

A teacher who has a relationship with a student needs to go to prison. I needed to go to prison. Shit, I should have gone for longer. The severity of Cathleen Balman’s crime exceeded mine; the quantity of Kourtnie Sanchez’s crime exceeded mine. And yet, they both walked away with probation – this is the rule, not the exception, for women. When the justice system applies lighter sentences to female teachers who have the same relationships that would send a male teacher to prison, the justice system fails. Stop considering male students in these situations “lucky guys” while in the same breath calling the female students “victims.” They’re all victims. Stop making “Hot for Teacher” jokes about the female teachers while demanding that the male teachers be locked-up. We all deserve to be locked-up. Lord knows I did.

So as long as the perceptions of these crimes differ, so will the punishments. Cute blonde teachers like Kourtnie Sanchez will continue to sleep with students, get caught, get probation, and change nothing about their lives. And any female teacher seeing these sentences of probation being handed out left-and-right is going to be less likely to second-guess her actions if she’s ever in a situation where an inappropriate relationship can take place. Because, shit, she’ll just get probation and find a new job.

I’m not saying I should have been given probation – I’m saying they should go to prison.

All of them.