Educator relates experience with 15-year-old; psychologist offers reasons for juvenile behaviour

An unbuttoned school blouse, a note on his desk, and a brazen admission that she was not a virgin. Those were three experiences that drove fear into a male teacher who was being sexually pursued by an underage grade 10 female student.

The 15-year-old girl's actions sent the man running to the school administration for assistance, before the perturbing situation could be perceived in any way as a relationship.

"I was in class and the class ended, and children were going to another class and the young lady came up to me and was pressing herself against my shoulder. I don't remember what I said to her, but she looked at me and asked, 'What? You don't like woman?' I said to her, 'You're a child.' I thought that was it and soon after, I left the room," the man told the Jamaica Observer.

About three days later, the business administration teacher went to the staffroom after a class and saw a "little envelope" with his name on it on his desk. It was another inappropriate attempt by the young girl.

"I opened the envelope and in it was a note to say she likes me and she knows I like her and we can meet at a certain place at three o' clock the day. I immediately went to the guidance counsellor with it. Immediately. We spoke about it and she said that if I'm uncomfortable, I must let the principal know. I went to the principal with the matter."

The man is adamant that these things happen in schools occasionally, and said though he is not making excuses for the girls, "I know they have hormone challenges, but some of the young girls are just forward. I wasn't the first and I know I was definitely not the last. But it's just a matter of you remembering that you're an adult. And this is a child. This is your student and so crossing the line is not an option. But I don't think that some of my colleague teachers are as strict with the rules for themselves. And so, there are times when we fall and sometimes there are consequences and sometimes there are none," he said.

The man said after he made the internal report, the student was called in by the administration and was spoken to. He thought that would've been the end of the ordeal, but it wasn't so.

"She came back to me. She said she is not going to hold it against me and that she thinks I have a big [penis]. She said she was not a virgin and not a child and that I must not feel as though it is done because I reported her," he told the Sunday Observer.

He added that there was another incident in which the girl walked up to him on the school compound with her blouse unbuttoned.

"When she got to me, about three buttons on her blouse were unbuttoned and I could see her bra and the top of her breast. And so, from there on, I made sure I was not in any classroom by myself with her or any other student, because you don't know. I even discussed it with a couple people in the staff room, and the PE [physical education] teacher had said to me that he too makes sure he's not alone with any of the girls," he said.

Psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj pointed to a client he had some years ago who sought his services because he was having depression. The man was a teacher in a secondary school and highlighted the pressure he was under from the girls at the school.

"He was trying his best not to give in to it. It was part of why he actually came to see me… because it was getting harder and harder. Part of him wanted to, but another part of him knew that it was wrong," he said.

Semaj told the Sunday Observer that a male teacher is oftentimes a unique phenomenon.

"It's just one or two of them, and then half of the girls are attracted to them. He becomes an ideal male... role model. He's an authority figure. Women and girls are attracted to power. Whether the power comes in money, politics, business, sports, or music. Any powerful male naturally attracts females, and it starts from teenagers.

"Many times, girls first fall in love with daddy. Girls want to marry somebody like daddy, but picture the average girl who either doesn't know who her father is, or has no father figure in the house. The closest male authority adult to her is a male teacher. So, it must be an important part of the teachers' college curriculum to help male teachers learn to prepare for that and not violate that."

He added that teachers are supposed to be trained professionals.

"Teachers' college should introduce this whole process to male teachers, that once you go into high school, this is what is likely to happen, and you have a responsibility to channel it. The first thing is hormonal changes. This is what drives intense emotions and increase the interest in romantic and sexual things and so on," Semaj argued.

Semaj said factors such as hormonal changes, teachers being role models, and authority figures almost create a "perfect storm".

"But even the emotional connections just by the teacher showing an interest in the girl with her work and how she's doing, and offering her guidance and mentorship, she easily can just rope that into a romantic scenario that she creates in her mind. So lots of teenage girls have crushes on male teachers. That sexual harassment is a power issue," he said.

Meanwhile, the teacher told the Sunday Observer that he feared that if left unreported, he could've potentially been viewed as a groomer.

"That's why I went to the guidance counsellor. The letter, how it was written, was like we had conversations before. The letter never seemed like an introduction. The letter was saying let us just meet up at a certain spot. It gave the impression that we were talking and we were at the stage now where we meet up.

"So I didn't want anybody to perceive anything. I didn't know if she had told her friends, I didn't know if it was a bait to see what would happen, I didn't know what it was and I didn't want at any point for it to be said that I was delinquent in reporting it either."

The worse thing that could've happened, he said, was him being unjustly dismissed from his job.

"It is a private school, so I would've been dismissed if it is that I seem to be engaging in any kind of conversation or any kind of interaction that was less than above board. Not even a relationship; conversation or interaction that was seen to be less than appropriate. It is not a government school where you know that the JTA [Jamaica Teachers' Association] will fight for you and things like that. At a private school, you slip and you slide," he said.

However, he noted that he is satisfied with how the school dealt with the matter.

"I felt protected. I really did. The moment I explained the situation, they asked me if I was comfortable, if I wanted them to call the parent, they called her in the next school day. I felt protected. Maybe it is because of how I responded, because I've worked in schools already where there are allegations that teacher and student were playing around and I didn't want that to be my reputation," he told the Sunday Observer.

He added that, eventually, the situation petered out.

"There was one occasion though where I passed her and another student and they laughed. But I didn't follow that up. I don't know what she told the friend, but there was no extended period of discomfort or where I felt uncomfortable or nervous. I wasn't unduly unfair or harsh with her, but of course, I maintained a distance.

"The only time I got nervous was when it came to end of year and we had Saturday classes and I was hoping that she didn't come, but she did come. On a Saturday, school isn't as structured and they put on their little clothes and all of that. Sometimes you're in the staffroom alone and there's no other teacher there."

BY ROMARDO LYONS Staff reporter lyonsr@jamaicaobserver.com

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