Convicted Teachers Are Not Always Sexual Predators

Insignia of East Forsyth High School

Insignia of East Forsyth High School

With apologies to Charles Dickens, last month was the best of times and the worst of times for the town of Kernersville. Ten days before Christmas, East Forsyth High School brought home a State football championship, certainly the best of times. Then, only days later, a female teacher and a female volunteer at the high school were convicted of sexual misconduct with their male students, certainly the worst of times. The juxtaposition of these activities spins a tale of victors and victims, but identifying the former is much easier than identifying the latter.

In two unrelated cases, Rebecca Carol Swinson, a 39-year-old English teacher, and Jennifer Ann Pike, a 44-year-old school volunteer, were convicted of multiple crimes involving students. According to testimony, two 17-year-old male students pursued Ms. Swinson, then, after getting what they wanted, talked about their sexual encounters to people who then reported the incidents. Meanwhile, Ms. Pike admitted to texting a male student, saying, “If you want it, you have to come get it now.” The male student rushed over to Pike’s business apartment, had sex, then took a photo of his condom for a trophy. The student bragged to someone, and suddenly a call went out to CrimeStoppers about the incident.

Pike received a suspended sentence and is on probation for three and a half years. Swinson will serve 6 months in prison, and after her release she must register as a sex offender. Neither woman had a prior criminal record, which under the law, kept them from doing hard time. But Swinson will live in her own kind of prison forever, because being registered as a sex offender means that she will be tagged as some sort of pervert, and thought of as a child molester, which she is not.

Let’s be clear about something. It’s wrong for a teacher or adult volunteer to have sex with a student, even a high school student. Moreover, teachers who are convicted of having sex with their students should be fired, and never allowed to teach again. But it’s also wrong for the courts to treat consensual sex as a crime. In North Carolina the age of consent is 16, yet that law doesn’t apply when a teacher is involved. I’m all for holding teachers to a higher standard than the rest of us, but you can’t have one rule for teachers and one for everybody else. I’m sorry, but a teacher who has sex with a 17-year-old student is not the same as a teacher who has sex with a 14-year-old student. Unfortunately this type of selective justice is not uncommon.

A few years ago, a male teacher in North Carolina had inappropriate sexual contact with a 17-year-old female student, and he pulled a brief stretch in prison for his “crime”. Afterwards, he had to register as a sex offender, and was not allowed to come near children in public places. His son is now old enough to play high school football, so recently the former teacher asked his son’s principal if he could attend football games, so he could see his son play. The principal granted special dispensation, but as soon as the “ex offender” showed up in the stands, a parent spotted him and called the police. All this because he once had sex with a consenting 17-year-old female, which is legal if you’re anyone else but a teacher.

Despite all of the negative publicity about cougar teachers, there is much to celebrate at East Forsyth High School. There’s also a lesson to be learned:

In football, the rules apply equally. In life, not so much.


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