Modesto Bee editorial: Teacher has undercut trust in schools

03/02/2012 12:00 AM

03/27/2012 2:35 PM

This editorial appeared today in the Modesto Bee.

Modesto has gained national attention – and once again it's for the wrong reason.

The story of the 41-year-old former Enochs High School teacher and his 18-year-old girlfriend was picked up by network television and has gone viral on the Internet.

Most people seem to share our reaction – that this is a totally inappropriate relationship between Jordan Powers and her former teacher, James Hooker, who has displayed, at best, horrible judgment.

While it has not yet been determined whether any laws were broken, this relationship between a teacher and student broke trust and violated professional ethics as well as the policies of the Modesto City Schools.

Hooker was put on leave from his teaching job and likely would have been fired had he not resigned.

Superintendent Pam Able summed it up well with this comment: "I consider student-teacher dating relationships to be not only unprofessional, but immoral."

Hooker and Powers have been granting numerous interviews, portraying their relationship as true love. But another Powers – Jordan's mother, Tammie Powers – is being very visible, too, claiming that Hooker must have pursued her daughter.

This is not the first time that there's been this kind of relationship; and unfortunately, it won't be the last.

But this case should serve as a wake-up call to educators and parents alike to be alert to inappropriate contact between adults and children – even teenagers who want to think of themselves as adults but who are in fact vulnerable.

One place we want and expect our children to be safe is in school – and that's true whether they're pint-sized first-graders or maturing teens in high school.

While schools have a responsibility, parents do, too. While teens deserve a certain amount of privacy, parents need to know who their kids' friends are, what relationships they are involved in and what they're doing online and via text messaging.

If you suspect something is amiss – whether it involves your own child or someone else's – you should take the responsibility for calling it to the attention of parents, school officials or others.

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