Shocker in Modesto: Former Enochs student, teacher back together

naustin@modbee.comApril 17, 2012 

 DN couple

Debbie Noda/dnoda@modbee.com Enochs High School student Jordan Powers, 18, and James Hooker, 41, a teacher who recently resigned from Enochs High School (2-28-12) talk about their relationship.

DEBBIE NODA — Modesto Bee

— After fleeing cross country and making a very public breakup announcement, an 18-year-old Modesto student has moved back in with her 41-year-old former teacher.

The revelation that Jordan Powers and James Hooker are together again came Tuesday, the same day legislation inspired by their relationship was rejected in the state Legislature.

Neighbors at Hooker's studio apartment in Modesto reported seeing the couple together last weekend. Tuesday, Powers answered the knock of a Sacramento TV reporter and confirmed that they were reunited.

Management of the gated complex turned away media Tuesday afternoon and the couple did not answer calls or texts. But Tammie Powers, Jordan's mother, said her daughter left the Ohio home where she was staying several days ago.

A man whose apartment sits across from Hooker's said he saw the couple together Tuesday.

"I'm highly shocked she's back here," he said. "I thought her mom would talk some sense into her. But it shows how much he is in her head now."

The teen's about-face came about a week after she left the state, furious with Hooker after his April 6 arrest by Modesto police on a sex charge involving a different student 14 years ago.

Jordan Powers called her mother after officers left, and Tammie Powers helped her pack her bags.

"She requested the distance. She asked to fly to Ohio. He's just not going to let her go," Tammie Powers said Tuesday.

Hooker remains out on bail but will return to court May 15 to face a charge of oral copulation with a 17-year-old in 1998. That girl attended a different Modesto high school and said she met him at a business club event he attended as a Davis High adviser.

The day after the arrest, Jordan Powers told ABC News, "He called me from jail and, yes, I told him that we're done."

She said Hooker had lied to her about the earlier affair. "I lost everything for this guy. I lost my senior year. I gave up all my friends at high school because they didn't agree with me," she told the network.

Breakup doesn't last

Now she is back with Hooker, in the romance the couple revealed first in The Bee and later defended on network and syndicated TV shows. The pair gained notoriety after Hooker left his wife and three daughters, quit his teaching job and moved Powers into his apartment in February.

Both adamantly insist they were not physically involved until months after she turned 18 in September. Police, however, are investigating thousands of text messages sent between the two, including some that predate her birthday.

After Jordan left the state April 6, Tammie Powers said Hooker called the teen "relentlessly," and she acknowledged that her daughter began talking with him daily.

"She left on her own. She hired a cab and booked her own flight," Tammie Powers said. At this point, Jordan Powers has cut off all contact with her relatives, Tammie Powers said.

"It is awful. This is what pedophiles, predators do. They isolate them from family," Tammie Powers said.

Legislation killed

News of the couple's reunion came the same day that a bill proposing to outlaw such teacher-student relationships was killed in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Assembly Bill 1861 by Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, would have made it a felony for a teacher to have a romantic relationship with a student at the same school, regardless of the student's age. Laws already protect students younger than 18. The bill's primary impact would have been on high school seniors. Teachers convicted of a work-related felony would have lost their pensions.

"Today's vote is a win for predators and union bosses and a loss for parents and students," said Olsen. "We need to do everything we can to protect our children and to ensure schools are a safe and secure learning environment."

Democrats killed the legislation, saying too many questions surround the bill, which also would have banned sexual communications between teachers and any students at their school.

Valerie Small Navarro of the American Civil Liberties Union said the ban on sexual messages was overly broad and could chill discussion on "The Great Gatsby," "The Color Purple" and other novels.

Olsen countered that she would be willing to amend AB 1861 to address curriculum concerns.

Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, said she opposed singling out one group of public employees — school workers — for potential loss of pension rights.

Sacramento Bee reporter Jim Sanders and Modesto Bee reporter Marijke Rowland contributed to this report.

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

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