Last year Susan Duursma, a middle school teacher in Bismarck, was found guilty of having sex with one of her 15 year-old students. Her sentence? She got 60 days in jail for felony child abuse after initially facing three counts of corrupting a minor and doesn’t have to register as a sex offender.
Earlier this year Sara Joy Wurgler, a “paraprofessional” in the Fargo school system, pled guilty to showing nude pictures of herself to a 16 year old student. She got 30 days in jail on a misdemeanor charge and she also doesn’t have to register as a sex offender.
Contrast those sentences with what happens to male educators in similar situations.
Aaron Knodel, a West Fargo teacher – once the state’s “teacher of the year” – who is facing five felony counts of corruption or solicitation of a minor after allegedly having sex with a female student. Currently Knodel’s case is hung up pending a possible mistrial after all but one of the jurors voted to acquit him of all charges. The one juror holding out for conviction was hospitalized after it was revealed that she’d failed to disclose during jury selection the fact that she was sexually assaulted in the past.
Today comes news of Charles William Soper, the superintendent and principal of the Sawyer Public School (Sawyer is a small town southeast of Minot). He is accused of carrying on an online relationship with a 15-year-old boy. UPDATE: More details out now and it appears they met for sex as well, though I’m still not sure that explains the trafficking charge.
Here are the charges he’s facing per KXNews:
Police say the boy disclosed details of the relationship in an interview with investigators and enough evidence was gathered to charge Soper with: Human Trafficking, a Class Double-A Felony with a maximum sentence of life in prison, Luring Minors by Computer, and Corruption or Solicitation of Minors – both Class C Felonies with maximum five year prison sentences.
First, some caveats.
Often charges are amended or dropped after the initial arrest as prosecutors gather their evidence. Also prosecutors will often layer on as many ugly charges as possible in order to intimidate defendants into copping a plea instead of going to trial.
Soper and Knodel’s cases are not final yet, unlike the cases involving Duursma and Wurgler, and in Soper’s case some of those charges may get dropped or downgraded.
Still, the double standard is obvious. The female teachers who had sex with a student (Duursma) or who showed a student explicit pictures of herself (Wurgler) faced fewer and less serious charges and didn’t get saddled with the lifetime punishment of a requirement to register as sex offenders.
The two male teachers who allegedly had sex with a student (Knodel) and who allegedly carried on an online relationship with an underage male (Soper) face felony charges. In Soper’s case, he’s facing the possibility of life in prison for human trafficking.
If Knodel and/or Soper are guilty they should absolutely be punished. But should they be facing felonies when female educators guilty of roughly equivalent crimes got off far more lightly?
I’d also suggest that in Soper’s case there’s an additional double standard because the alleged relationship was homosexual in nature. The people who find the idea of a hot female teacher having sex with an underage student titillating probably don’t have that same reaction about a male educator/male student situation.
But back to the male vs. female double standards. This is taking place even as incidents of sex abuse perpetrated by females increases. “According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, a Department of Justice project, in 1994, less than 1% of incarcerated rape and sexual assault offenders were females, or fewer than 800,” reported USA Today in 2013. “By 2006, however, the FBI reported that females accounted for nearly 10% of sex crimes. And studies indicate that women commit approximately 20% of sex offenses against children.”
We clearly have a major problem with sex abuse of males going under reported. Do you suppose at least part of the problem might be the light sentences female perpetrators of sex abuse against males receive from the courts? A status quo which seems rooted in the wink-wink, nod-nod reaction many have to these cases?
After all, aren’t we supposed to believe that it’s every teen boys dream to have sex with an attractive teacher? I guess these victims should be thankful for the opportunity, or something.
Can you imagine telling a female minor that she should be thankful her male teacher had sex with her?
Of course, studies indicate that this sort of sexual abuse increases the likelihood of suicide significantly in males. Which is troubling, since males already already make up 79 percent of suicides.
But who cares, right? It’s just men. If society teaches us anything, it’s that when there’s an issue involving females it’s a crisis. When there’s an issue involving men, the guys need to just suck it up and quit being babies.