Teacher-Student Sex: Another Case?

A teacher in Tennessee has been accused of having sex with one of her students, who is 13.

The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler says Pamela Turner, 27, taught physical education, and was married to a high school basketball coach. But she's been charged with statutory rape.

Prosecutor Dale Potter says, "Some people don't look at it as serious, but if you reverse the roles and make it a male on a female, then everyone gets really upset, and it's considered really serious."

Potter adds Turner won't be given special treatment because she's a woman: "We intend to prosecute it as aggressively as we do our other sex cases."

Turner is free on a $50,000 bond. The school system has placed her on leave.

Of course, notes Syler, this is hardly the first time a teacher has been accused of having a physical relationship with a student.

Perhaps the most infamous case involved Mary Kay Letourneau, a Seattle teacher whose relationship with a sixth-grader, ultimately produced two children. Letourneau spent seven years behind bars.

Last December, Debra LaFave, a middle-school reading teacher in Florida, was charged having sex with a 14-year-old.

Her lawyer, John Fitzgibbons, asserts, "Debbie has some profound emotional issues that are not her fault." He plans an insanity defense when her trial comes up later this year.

"Three young, attractive teachers, all accused of sexual misconduct," Syler sums it up.

On The Early Show Wednesday, her husband, Owen LaFave, told Syler, "My heart goes out to the husband. I know exactly what he's going through and I'd actually just like to offer him personally, although he probably won't take me up on it, the opportunity to call me and talk to me if he should choose to do so.

"He just has to remain strong. Don't let pride get in the way. Find your support system, whether it be friends, or family, or church. Seek out professional help. Don't be embarassed. While I realize he's going through a sense of humiliation, reach out to people.

"It really strains the fabric of your family. It's really amazing the power that the press has to really affect your family. There was a point in time when we had no private alone time as a family at all. It seemed that everywhere we went we were being followed. Every time you turned on the news or read a newspaper, it just was ubiquitous. Everywhere you went, you heard something and it's very challenging for a family."

LaFave adds that he was "absolutely stunned" when he first learned Debra had been arrested, "and I have a very difficult time articulating exactly how I felt that day. It's something I still have a difficult time putting my finger on. It's just a tremendous rush of indescribable emotion, and just shock and anguish, I think."

They were only married 11 months when Debra was arrested.

With her lawyer planning an insanity defense, does Owen think Debra was capable or is capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong?

"You know," he answered Syler, "that's not my decision to make. I think you can look at the police reports and there's a certain indication that she knew what she was doing was wrong. However, I'll leave that decision to psychologists and to the jury and to the judge if it should go to trial."
  • Brian Dakss

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