D  e  s  e  r  t     E  x  p  o  s  u  r  e  December 2005


Running on Empty
Peak oil globally inspires sustainability efforts locally.

Silver and Bells
Does the name
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Church Potluck
Inside the 1st Church of What's Happening.

Flexing the Faith Muscle
Battling Juárez' poverty and disease—
and a land grab.

Making Water
Run Uphill

Gene Simon has
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Blame our stories for the confusion that is the modern West.

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Sex and Education

What can be done about the plague of sex crimes by school teachers and staff against students?


"SEX CRIMES PLAGUE SCHOOLS" was the headline in the Nov. 9, 2005, Las Cruces Sun-News. In a copyrighted article, the Sun-News reported, "The arrest of Las Cruces High School's band director Monday on allegations that he had sex with a student is the third case at the school this year and the sixth such case pending in the county." The band director was charged with three counts of Criminal Sexual Penetration of a Minor by a School Official. Each charge is a fourth-degree felony and can result in a sentence of up to 18 months in prison.

But wait, there is more! Five days later, the Sun-News headline was, "LAS CRUCES HIGH CUSTODIAN CHARGED WITH SEXUAL CONTACT." In its copyrighted article, the Sun-News reported that the custodian was charged with one count of Criminal Sexual Contact of a Minor by a Licensed School Employee, also a fourth-degree felony: "[The custodian] is the fourth official from that school currently facing charges for having illegal sexual contact with a student. In three of the four cases, the illegal contact allegedly took place at the school. The allegations shocked the community."

This November may become known as "abuse students in Las Cruces month." As reported by the Sun-News Nov. 1, a 62-year-old substitute teacher was charged with molesting a girl in a Las Cruces High School classroom. Nov. 11 there was reported a Mayfield High classroom assistant and volunteer coach charged with giving alcohol to underage students in a NMSU dorm room.

But this plague has not been confined to November. The Oct. 2 Sun-News reported a co-owner of a martial arts school was charged with having sex with a 14-year-old girl when he was a teacher's assistant at Picacho Middle School. He is charged with 15 new counts of Criminal Sexual Penetration by a School Employee. (See below for what else he has done to his students.)

The Sept. 3 Sun-News: A former janitor at East Picacho Elementary School was sentenced to 12 years in prison on three counts of attempted Criminal Sexual Penetration and five counts of Criminal Sexual Contact. Apparently, the defendant had befriended a 10-year-old boy at the school and the friendship turned into a sexual relationship.

Aug, 12 Sun-News: Las Cruces High teacher and coach accused of raping one of his students 10 times.

Aug. 2 Sun-News: The Picacho Middle School teacher's assistant who was indicted in October for raping a student 15 times was found guilty by a jury for six counts of sex with a 13-year-old student and then pled to three more counts of having sex with the girl.

The Sun-News has reported that "the Las Cruces Public Schools announced it's creating a TV show to educate students about avoiding such situations and how to report such activity to school official or police." The DA's office and La Piñon Sexual Assault Recovery Services were reported to be helping with the video.

Years ago, a Court of Appeals judge opined that when a female teacher had sex with one of the boys in her class, that was "sex education." Well, society and the DA do not see it that way now. But society has always been much harder on male teachers who have sex with girls.

How about today? TV, movies and music are filled with sex and violence. And we seem to find sex and violence with student-age kids the most titillating. One of the most popular "adult" magazines is titled Barely Legal, referring to the age of the girls in the pictorials. Are these cases of student "hoes" driving poor middle-aged men to distraction? The Sun-News quotes District Attorney Susana Martinez as declaring, "The utmost responsibility is on the adults to not abuse the kids. We can't reverse the responsibility."

What can we do about this? Will increasing the length of the criminal sentences handed out help? Has sex education in the schools made this situation worse or better? Has the lack of sex education in the schools made this situation worse? How about having sex education start before the age that some students become sexually active? Waiting to start sex ed until so late in the kids' education that their parents are comfortable with the schools teaching about sex has meant sex ed has been too little too late. Sex needs to be taught in the middle schools, not just high schools.

And those who say that sex ed should be left to the parents are kidding themselves. I can remember back many years ago when I was in college and my childhood best friend's father had picked me up at the airport and he was driving me to their home for a visit. He confessed that he thought that he the best place for kids to find out about sex was "in the gutter." I understand why he felt so uncomfortable about talking with his son about sex. So it falls to the schools to teach about sex and respecting your own body during class, and not after class.

Happy holidays!


Robert (Tito) Meyer practices law in Las Cruces, representing people who have been injured in accidents and the families of people who have been killed in accidents. Contact him by email at tito@zianet.com or phone (505) 524-4540, (800) 610-0555, or PO Box 1628, Las Cruces, NM 88004. This column is not intended to provide legal advice to any specific person, or with respect to any particular problems or situations. To find a lawyer, call the State Bar of New Mexico referral service, (800) 876-6227.

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