Eyes of national media on Modesto teacher-student couple

naustin@modbee.comMarch 1, 2012 

The Modesto teacher-student couple who revealed their romance this week now must cope with national celebrity.

"I know, it's crazy!" said Enochs High School senior Jordan Powers on Thursday.

Powers, 18, moved in with her 41-year-old teacher James Hooker on Feb. 22, the day he resigned from Modesto City Schools. Hooker said he left his wife and three daughters the week before. The school district had suspended him Feb. 3.

Powers and Hooker appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Thursday. They were taping another segment Thursday for today.

"We have to stay exclusive with them," Powers said, but added after their run on "Good Morning America" is done they are scheduled to appear on NBC's "Today Show" as well as a CBS affiliate. The "Dr. Phil" and "Inside Edition" shows also want them.

None of the shows is paying them, which Powers didn't think is right. But she feels their side needs to be told to counter widespread disapproval and criticism led by her mother, Tammie Powers. "We're just trying to get the story out," Jordan Powers said.

The couple met when Powers was a freshman, but both say the romance didn't bloom until months after she became of legal age Sept. 5. Hooker said he is confident that fact will be confirmed by Modesto police, who are investigating.

The story got 375,000 page views on Modbee.com between 8 p.m. Tuesday and 5 p.m. Thursday, said Bee director of interactive media Dan Day. National media Web sites drove 65,000 views of the original article on Modbee.com Thursday, just during the noon hour, Day said.

Hooker's and Powers' willingness to speak out in response helped move the story forward, and The Bee's Facebook site helped rocket it to prominence once it broke, Modbee.com site records show.

Univision has run an article in Spanish. Bloggers have picked up the controversy online and the story accounted for three of the Sacramento area's top 10 trending Twitter feeds Wednesday morning.

Doug McIntyre of TalkRadio 790 KABC-AM in Los Angeles hoped to interview Tammie Powers on this morning's drive time segment. Tammie Powers said she taped a segment Thursday for CNN's "Nancy Grace" show.

Powers believes Hooker pursued her daughter. She has documented thousands of text messages to her daughter's phone, most during the fall. Many days show dozens of texts, including during hours when Jordan Powers would have been sitting in Hooker's class.

Tammie Powers vented her fury on Facebook after discovering the extent of the pair's involvement, using the social network to castigate the teacher.

While the police investigation will likely take weeks or longer, Facebook fans can comment now on a "James Hooker to Jail Page" created Thursday by self-described Silicon Valley marketing executive Danny Maddox.

Tammie Powers said Thursday she hopes all the publicity will put Hooker in legal jeopardy.

"James Hooker is reveling in his short-term spotlight and notoriety. I have always contended that my ultimate goal is to gather facts and as a result of the publicity, someone will come forward with pertinent information," she said. "At the end of the day, my daughter's still with James Hooker."

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339.

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