Recently news broke about a West Fargo teacher who was arrested for allegedly sending sexually explicit messages to two teenage boys, one 16 and one 14 at the time of the incident. She is also accused of having sex with the 16 year old.
But some of the public’s response to the situation seems born of the belief that this teacher, Shannon Moser, really didn’t do anything wrong. WDAY did a report about those reactions last night:
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Moser is, of course, innocent until proven guilty. She’ll get her day in court. Yet many are commenting on this story as if they already know the outcome, and some of the attitudes are disgusting.
In the WDAY broadcast they note some of the social media responses left by the public in response to the story:
One viewer left a picture comment, saying ‘nice.’
Another, saying ‘sexy sexy, lucky boys.’
Someone else blaming the boys, calling them ‘snitches.’
Yet another, claiming to be envious of the reported victims, saying he wishes he could be Moser’s ‘jailbait.’
Were the teacher a male and the victims young females these sort of comments wouldn’t be socially acceptable. But because the teacher is female, and the victims males, many think they are.
Which boggles the mind. More frustrating is that this attitude seems to permeate the criminal justice system as well.
“When you look at our legal system, it handles it the same regardless of gender. But when you look at societal expectations and norms, that’s when you see some variance of who’s a victim and who’s not,” Chris Johnson, Executive Director of the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center, told WDAY.
Johnson is right about social expectations, but based on the last several cases of inappropriate sexual conduct between teachers and students we’ve seen in North Dakota he’s wrong about the legal system.
Here are some examples I pointed out in a post last month about the domestic violence court in Grand Forks County treating male and female offenders differently:
- Susan Duursma, a former 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.
- Sara Joy Wurgler, a “paraprofessional” in the Fargo school system, pleaded 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.
- Mandan school teacher Amanda Kolosky pleaded guilty to having sex with a 17 year old student. Her sentence? A one year suspended sentence, two years of probation, and she doesn’t have to register as a sex offender.
Now contrast those cases with how a male teacher is treated when accused of sexual misconduct with a student.
- Fargo teacher Aaron Knodel was charged with 5 felony counts, and potentially 35 years in prison, for allegedly having sexual contact with a 17 year old student in 2009. He was acquitted of the charges. He almost certainly would have had to register as a sex offender once released from prison.
- Grand Forks teacher James Whalen, meanwhile, got a four year prison sentence after having a sexual relationship with a 16 year old student, with two years suspended. He faced as many as 25 years in prison. He will have to register as a sex offender.
Not only do many in society have a double standard when it comes to male and female victims of sexual molestation, but that attitude seems apparent in our court system too.