Another Wichita-area teacher was arrested for having a sexual relationship with a student. This time, it was a Haysville teacher named Shari Herrs — a P.E. teacher and track coach. She’s also married to a guy named Ryan. Sheri has (assuming she’s guilty) destroyed her career and scarred her marriage (which may or may not recover from this). She was arrested last night and booked into jail just before 7PM. She spent the night in the Sedgwick County Jail, and as much as I know she deserves to be there, I can’t help but hurt for her too — because I’ve been in the exact same situation, in the exact same place, thinking the exact same feelings of regret that she is feeling right now — at this very moment, as I type this very sentence, as she sits on a small metal cot with a flat plastic mattress, wondering what will happen to the rest of her life.
I’ve been there. I deserved to be there. She deserves to be there. But it could have been prevented.
About a year ago, I sent letters to every school district surrounding Wichita (including Haysville) offering to come speak to the faculty about this issue, free of charge. Every single letter I sent was ignored, including the letter I sent to Haysville, where Sheri Herrs taught.
I wonder if the Haysville superintendent still believes this is not an issue which warrants direct attention. Regardless, I sent him a copy of my book, After 3PM.
A few months ago, a YMCA employee named Caleb Gaston was arrested for raping a 4-year-old girl at the YMCA daycare where he worked. Caleb Gaston did not have a criminal record. However, as a result, the YMCA now screens all members for sex offenses — registered sex offenders are not allowed to join the YMCA. But the thing is, Caleb Gaston was not a sex offender (though he will be soon). But regardless, this was a knee-jerk reaction by the YMCA to make it look like they were doing something proactive to prevent this from happening again (even though the safeguard they put in place would not have prevented the original crime, but I guess that’s beside the point).
But here’s the thing: At least the YMCA did something (though pointless it is). School districts all across the country are experiencing the same thing USD 261 – Haysville is experiencing right now. But how often do they attack this issue head-on? Almost never.
Principals and school officials are often reluctant to address this topic in an in-service or teacher training session because they don’t want to offend their faculty members, or they don’t want to discuss such an uncomfortable topic, or they flat-out don’t want to admit the problem exists.
So here’s the question: What will the Haysville school district do next?
I gave one hell of a speech last October in Phoenix at the annual conference of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC) about this issue and received very positive feedback about how school districts need to hear what I have to say, from my point of view. And yet, my letters are ignored. So, will Haysville take some proactive steps toward preventing unlawful teacher-student relationships? Or do they just assume Sheri Herrs was the only one? Because that’s a very dangerous assumption.
Yes, it should be common sense for a teacher to not have a relationship with a student.
But clearly, it’s not.
Clearly more must be done.
Your move, Haysville.