Boundaries Overstepped

Although teachers are influential figures in students’ lives, certain lines should not be crossed.

There is a distinct boundary between a student and a teacher. For Brittni Nicole Colleps, a former English teacher at Kennendale High School, the boundaries were few and thin. On Aug. 17, the former teacher was convicted on 16 counts of inappropriate relationship between a student and teacher. Despite being married with three children, Colleps engaged in sexual activities with five of her students in her home over a span of two months. The defense argued that these students were all of legal age; however, although this may be true, teachers, among other school faculty members, have a responsibility to uphold certain limitations in the classroom and out.
No one is denying the benefits of close student and teacher relationships. Often, our teachers can become one of our greatest mentors, inspiring us reach our potential and beyond. Yet, this is precisely why the role of the teacher must be taken with great caution.

A high school student with a regular six class schedule is in contact with six different teachers for at least an hour every weekday. That is 30 hours of teacher-student contact. In some case, students have the same teachers for more than one period, allowing even more time for a teacher to wield his other influence. Should students be a part of extra-curricular activities, the hours that they are spending with teachers, advisors, and coaches are that much greater.

From the examples exhibited, it is clear that a teacher’s sphere of influence is nothing short of ample. Teachers are given virtually unlimited opportunity to develop close bonds with their students, and without any boundaries, students stand to lose more than they may gain. A student benefits nothing once the line between advisory figure and romantic partner is crossed. Eighteen or not, students in high school have yet to be fully developed both physically and mentally. High school romance in itself takes heavy tolls on its participants, doling out stress, complications, and often, painful heartbreak. A romantic entanglement of student and teacher can only have more so in all three departments. Moreover, teachers in romantic relationships with students compromise their credibility as they can no longer be trusted to treat each student equally.

Cases like Colleps’s must set precedents for future instances of inappropriate student and teacher relationships. Teachers must realize the responsibility they are given is meant to be beneficial for the students. As one can see, there must never be any room to allow for exceptions and exemptions for the sake of the student, the teacher, and the very foundation of integrity that the public education system has been built upon.