Friday, November 02, 2007

Dr. Phil covers alleged inappropriate behavior by a female Texas high school teacher

Thursday and Friday, Nov. 1 and 2 2007, Dr. Phil presented a hard-to-resolve case about a high school French teacher “Joelle” from Glen Rose, Texas who was accused of inappropriate behavior with male high school students. The link to the Thursday show is here; the second show has number 965.

At one point she was indicted and arrested, and threatened with 160 years in prison. The district attorney offered a misdemeanor plea bargain that would have resulted in permanent loss of teaching license. She maintains that she didn’t do it and refused, and worried that she put her own kids in danger. However, on the second day the DA agreed to a mistrial and that there was not enough credible evidence for a conviction.

The school district fired her and will not even let her work as a volunteer. She is suing the school district for lack of due process.

Three male students came forward. One recanted, but two took lie detector tests arranged by Dr. Phil and failed. Dr. Phil noted that the testimony of the young men did not have the consistency usually expected when people have been victimized. But he also noted that her response was rather analytical and not as emphatic as usually seen from someone who is completely innocent.

Dr. Phil noted that teachers must avoid every “appearance of impropriety” but that teachers are not paid adequately for what we expect of them and for the position we put them in. I’ll echo that.

She had invited a male student, Matt, to her home during the summer, supposedly to help her move a piano. Matt accused her of inappropriate advances during that visit. Later, next year, she gave Matt coded messages on paper. Matt, for an English assignment, wrote a poem in the style of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales that depicted an affair. It became a joke at the school.

It is, of course, dangerous for teachers to become involved with students socially after school. However, Joelle actually married her former English teacher, an older man.

The two day show had the effect of a docudrama movie, and reminds me of the Lifetime film “Student Seduction” (2003, dir. Peter Svatek, wr. Edithe Swensen) in which a happily married young female chemistry teacher carelessly socializes with a student, who then makes advances at her and then, when disciplined, accuses her of advances. I saw this film the weekend after my first substitute teaching assignment, in 2004, and it scared me.

I had covered other teacher conduct issues (from the Dr. Phil show) on this blog Dec 6, 2006.

Since 2005, the media have reported a large number of convictions for teacher, including female teacher, misconduct around the country.

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