In the mid-1990s, it made national news when middle school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau was sent to jail for having sex with one of her students. Today, student-teacher sex scandals do not seem to surprise the public much. Some have even called the prevalence of such cases an epidemic.

Here in New Jersey just this week, a teacher in Toms River pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting one of her students, and another teacher in Wall was arrested for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a student.

The Toms River case involves a 32-year-old former Spanish teacher who was arrested in November. The woman was accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old male student.

Her guilty plea could lead to 10 years in prison, and she will be subject to Megan’s Law registration.

In the second case, a 22-year-old Wall Township high school teacher has been accused of having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old student.

It is difficult to determine whether these types of cases truly are on the rise or whether they are just attracting more media attention; there is no federal agency that tracks the frequency of teachers being accused of sex crimes against students.

Cases like these often involve a variety of complicated factors. For example, teachers accused of such crimes are often very close in age to the alleged victims. In New Jersey, 16 is the legal age of sexual consent, but it is still illegal for teachers to have sexual relations with students of any age.

Psychological issues are often involved in such cases; in the Toms River case, the woman will undergo a psychiatric evaluation prior to sentencing.

In any event, it can be difficult for defendants in such crimes to find sympathy in New Jersey. Teachers who are convicted of sexually assaulting students will generally lose their state teaching licenses, be added to the sex offender registry and even face jail time. Teachers who face charges for sex crimes should seek legal counsel.

Source: Toms River Patch, “Former Toms River Regional Teacher Admits Sexual Relationship With Boy, 15,” Daniel Nee, Aug. 6, 2013

Source: Education Action Group Foundation, Inc., “Teacher-student sexual abuse cases drawing more attention in Texas,” Victor Skinner, March 29, 2013