Even without all the facts in the case, a shocking number of people demanded George Zimmerman be charged in the death of Trayvon Martin in Stanford, Fla.
Yet with the information more cut and dried, some people seemed reluctant to charge a former Harlem teacher with sex crimes related to his relationship with a student. And what’s really disturbing is that law enforcement officials in Thomson were among those who seemed all too willing to look the other way.
But just as public pressure kept the heat on Florida officials so that, for good or ill, Zimmerman was charged, so did public scrutiny of Thomson police ensure that they couldn’t ignore the law.
It’s not that complicated. Georgia law very plainly states that it is a felony for a teacher to have sex with a student who attends the same school, and that the student’s willing participation cannot be used as a defense. Period.
There’s no coincidence that the law is under the same section of code governing jailers and inmates. As with that relationship, the law assumes (as it should) that students are under the authority of teachers, and thus are unable to give consent to an inappropriate relationship.
Yet the Thomson police officers initially investigating the case all but walked away from it when the student, whom they inexplicably questioned in the presence of the teacher and the student’s father, denied any sexual activity. Even after she later admitted to Columbia County investigators that they had sex, Thomson police seemed uninterested in further pursuit of the case.
Fortunately, public pressure, plus peer pressure from their Columbia County law enforcement colleagues, moved them to take action and arrest the ex-teacher this past week – more than a month after they found him in his Thomson home with the Harlem High senior. He’ll have his day in court.
Meanwhile, Thomson officials should insist that their police officers brush up on the law until they understand just why sex between teachers and students is illegal. If there’s a next time, God forbid, perhaps they’ll take such allegations a little more seriously.