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Bad Love

You've got to figure that, in this day and age, a "Win a Date with the Teacher" contest isn't going to have a good ending. 

That didn't deter a local special education teacher by the deliciously ironic name of Christine Scarlett from holding one, and the winner turned out to be Steven Bradigan, the 17-year-old high school football quarterback.  Although he suffered from a hearing disability, his other parts apparently functioned satisfactorily; after the date at a local Dairy Queen ended in a mutual pawing session in Scarlett's car, the two began a torrid affair. 

The 36-year-old teacher's employment with the Strongsville public school system ended shortly thereafter, when the father of one of Bradigan's friends found Scarlett hiding in a closet in his home; apparently, the friend had loaned out his room for the couple's trysts.  Even after the discharge -- er, firing -- the two continued an on-again off-again relationship for the next couple of years, culminating in the birth of a son.

Things went south after that, with Bradigan's parents filing a lawsuit against the school system, and the county prosecutor charging Scarlett with 18 counts of sexual battery and two of disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.  Scarlett initially denied the child was Bradigan's, a defense that was complicated by DNA results showing the contrary, and a stash of X-rated photos that Bradigan's friends had taken of the pair.  (A more modest picture of the two can be found here.)

Although the general perception of teacher-student relationships has male teachers being the ones taking advantage, the reverse scenario seems to be cropping up with more frequency.  Indeed, if measured solely by age of the student, Scarlett's activities are probably less predatory than those of a number of her peers.  The most notorious case, of course, is that of Mary Kay Letourneau, the 34-year-old Seattle teacher who had an affair with one of her sixth-grade students; she wound up having two children with the boy, doing over seven years in prison, and the two are now married.  And then there's the story of Diane Cherchio West, a Bayonne, NJ, school teacher who had an affair with an 11th grader, had a child by him, and married him after he graduated, and then wound up seducing a 15-year-old friend of her son after he entered high school.

At any rate, the saga of Scarlett and Bradigan came to an end over the past week.  Last Thursday, the 8th District affirmed the grant of summary judgment against the Bradigans in their lawsuit against the Strongsville school board, holding that the statute of limitations had expired on their claim that the board failed to properly supervise Scarlett.  And yesterday Scarlett was sentenced.

I decided to go over and watch the sentencing.  I went with the typical male attitude toward this sort of thing:  an overwhelming sense of personal regret that no hot teachers had seen fit to hit on me during my high school years.

But as I listened to the kid and his mother speak their piece to the judge, I began to realize that maybe that wasn't such a bad thing after all.  There's a reason we don't want 36-year-olds playing around with kids two decades younger, regardless of the gender of the participants, especially when the 36-year-old is in a position of power over the kid:  that's emotionally, as well as sexually, predatory conduct.  And it becomes even more predatory when the mother explained the developmental disabilities her son had as a result of some problems at birth, how at 17 he functioned at the emotional level of a 12-year-old, how she'd explained all this to Scarlett at the first parent-teacher conference in an effort to gain Scarlett's assistance in helping the boy.

The judge gave Scarlett community control sanctions.

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