Posts Tagged ‘student-teacher relationships’

M.S. was a 15-year-old male student in 36-year-old Colleen McGraham’s English class. He was also involved in the poetry club and theater group, for which McGraham was an advisor. She loaned him books such as "Catcher in the Rye" and "Fahrenheit 451," but also let him borrow "Harold and Maude," a 1972 movie about a sexual relationship between a teenage boy and an older woman. McGraham eventually asked him if it was "crazy" to "think that there was something between us." M.S. told another teacher, who advised him to tell the principal. Later, M.S.’s mother and an investigator posed as M.S., eliciting more responses from McGraham, who wrote of her distress that M.S. had stopped talking to her:

Because we have both been confused, I have wanted us to talk. But that seems to create problems for both of us. When I have tried to talk to you, you seem to run a bit in the opposite direction. And my nervousness leads me to maybe not be entirely forthright. There is so much I would like to tell you, to discuss with you. But even now writing this, there is fear. You, I am sure, understand the risks involved for me. But you have no idea how happy it makes me to hear from you. And as far as where I am standing, there is only one place I would like to be standing. God, help me!

McGraham told an independent hearing officer that she had learned her lesson and was seeking therapy. The officer then suspended her for 90 days and transferred her to another school.

The New York City School District then filed suit against McGraham for additional punishment, and the trial court vacated the suspension and remanded the case for a more severe penalty. On appeal, however, the 1st Appellate Division of New York reversed the decision, ruling that the suspension and transfer constituted sufficient punishment, noting the following:

The penalty imposed here is not so lenient as to be arbitrary and capricious. The hearing officer’s conclusion that [McGraham] was not like to repeat her actions was necessarily a determination based on [her] credibility, and he was in far superior position than [the trial court] to make that determination.

For the full story, click here.


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