MODESTO — The former Enochs High teacher and student whose romance made national news appeared on the "Dr. Phil" show Tuesday. As the show aired, efforts moved forward to try to outlaw such relationships.
In the face of pointed questions by host Phil McGraw, teacher James Hooker, 41, and Jordan Powers, 18, maintained that they did nothing improper.
Hooker said they only started "a little bit of hugging, a little bit of kissing" at the end of January.
The date of first physical contact is key because a sexual relationship between teacher and student after her birthday, Sept. 5, is perfectly legal in California. Hugging and kissing on Sept. 4, however, would have been a felony.
The distinction does not impress Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, who Tuesday said teachers dating students of any age is an abuse of power. Olsen said she has proposed legislation, Assembly Bill 1861, that would make it a felony for school employees to date students at the same school and could result in the loss of their pensions.
"As a mother, I don't care what age the student is. It is inappropriate for you in such a position of authority, a position of influence and respect," Olsen said. She expects to introduce the bill early next week.
Tammie Powers said she will gladly campaign for that law. Jordan's mother also appeared on "Dr. Phil," sitting across from the man she has vilified for the past month in Facebook postings. She and Hooker met on camera during three days of taping last week in Hollywood.
It was a comment during taping about similar laws in other states that sparked Tammie Powers' interest in working for such legislation.
"Dr. Phil addressed this and I thought, why isn't he (Hooker) facing a felony? Why don't we have this law? In 23 other states, he'd be in jail right now," she said.
Hooker left his wife and their three daughters in mid-February. He resigned his teaching post Feb. 22 and moved in with Jordan Powers the same day. The couple has appeared on "Good Morning America" as well as "Dr. Phil," but said they haven't made any money for the appearances.
"No book deals, no movies," Hooker said Tuesday. "At this point, we're just trying to make it on our own," he said.
Powers said, "We honestly would rather let it die down."
She's looking for work as a waitress and working to earn her diploma through independent study. She's been accepted at Modesto Junior College for the fall and hopes to be a nurse.
Hooker and Powers said the "Dr. Phil" experience soured them on working with talk shows and that sitting face to face with Tammie Powers was not what they signed up for.
Hooker said, "We told them it's best that Tammie isn't there. But when we got there, she was on the show. It just turned into this whole different thing that we really didn't agree to."
They said they didn't know until an hour before taping that Tammie Powers was in the studio. "It was a big shocker," Jordan Powers said.
Throughout the episode, the diminutive teen smiles shyly and chews on her lip, her face partially hidden by long brown hair. She said later that doing the show was very difficult. "I didn't feel it was fair at all," Powers said.
On the show, Hooker says their friendship blossomed during an overnight field trip with other students in November, although nothing physical occurred until later. She says she is using birth control, although they both would like to have children in the future.
Hooker said the show "was kind of an attack on me." He added, "It was what it was. We are trying to step back now."
He said they're "doing fine as a couple," but the notoriety is hampering his job search and they're considering moving out of the area after Jordan graduates.
"We get a lot of double takes, a lot of second looks. We are somewhat well-known here," he said. "We still don't get a lot of support."
Meanwhile, Tammie Powers said she will continue to press for a law against teachers dating students. "I don't really care about the (TV fame). If I'm going on a national forum, it's to clarify and dispel the inaccuracies," she said.
She's been on "Good Morning America," interviewed by Nancy Grace and was contacted by producers about a possible movie. She said she hopes her efforts result in schools being safer places for older teens.
"I'm going to continue heavy lobbying," she said.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2339.
Video Below: Dr. Phil asks Hooker what happened on a field trip