In a seemingly recent wave of twenty-something female teachers in Texas getting busted for having sex with their students, two more now stand accused of crossing the line, this time with middle schoolers.
On March 21, Trophy Club police arrested Katherine Ruth Harper, a seventh grade English teacher at Tidwell Middle School in the Northwest Independent School District. She also coached cheerleaders. Officers alleged Harper, 27, had a sexual relationship with one of her students during the summer of 2016, a then 15-year-old male. They charged her with improper relationship between educator and student, a second degree felony, then booked her into the Denton County Jail. She bonded out after posting $15,000 bail.
This week, details about the illicit relationship emerged including how Harper and the teenager initially became involved over flirtatious text messages. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported the two had sex numerous times either at the teen’s Trophy Club home or at her Fort Worth residence from June 1, 2016 to July 31, 2016. They also exchanged naked selfies of each other by cell phone. The boy saved these images which police later retrieved when they seized his phone.
Cell phone records showed the pair communicated roughly 76 times while involved intimately, according to the arrest warrant. The teenager eventually told a Child Protective Services investigator during one of their rendezvous, he and Harper drank alcohol and took off their clothes, the boy said he performed a sex act on his teacher. When a Tidwell school official questioned the teen, he cried and admitted to having the relationship.
In September 2016, Northwest ISD learned about Harper’s salacious behavior but they could not investigate thoroughly because they had few details. The Star-Telegram indicated Harper was pregnant. The district got another tip in December saying a pregnant middle school teacher was involved with a student. From this, the Trophy Club Police Department initiated a three-month investigation that resulted in Harper’s March 21 arrest.
Three days after Harper’s arrest, Grand Prairie police took into custody Rebecca Goerdel, a special education teacher at the all-boys Young Men’s Leadership Academy at the Kennedy Middle School. This follows accusations she had a sexual relationship with a juvenile, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Grand Prairie ISD officials learned of the “potential impropriety” after school dismissal on March 10. They placed Goerdel, 28, on leave immediately. Local law enforcement launched a probe, leading to her arrest. On March 24, Grand Prairie ISD posted a statement on Facebook. Superintendent Susan Hull said “this kind of conduct is outrageous and will not be tolerated.” She added: “The teacher-student relationship is sacred. It reflects a vow from teachers to parents that their children are safe – as safe as they would be at home. When a teacher in Grand Prairie ISD breaks that vow, he or she will be dealt with quickly and aggressively. I encourage law enforcement to pursue all available action.”
If women educators crossing the line with students sexually seems more prevalent, it is, says Dr. Ernest Zarra III, author of Teacher-Student Relationships: Crossing into the Emotional, Physical, and Sexual Realms. He told Breitbart Texas one reason for this is “there are many more women in education than men.”
Also the author of the professional development tool, “Addressing Appropriate and Inappropriate Teacher-Student Relationships,” Zarra reflected on this national classroom crisis as a “a slow drip of a moral breakdown in the culture” where “sex surrounds all of us” abetted by technology, from the internet and online pornography to cell phone sexting. Access, too, becomes problematic, says Zarra because some teachers allow students to contact them at home or on vacation, blurring the walls of propriety. “What was a drip is now a tidal wave,” he added.
State Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) called the troubling situation a “plague,” Breitbart Texas reported. His proposed Senate Bill 7 intends to crack down on an eight-year epidemic of Texas education professionals sexually preying on school children. In March, the Senate unanimously passed the bill. It moved onto the House Education Committee where it remains pending.
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