Update June 2nd: Jennifer Gonzales plea-bargained down to two counts of attempted forcible sexual abuse. See updated post HERE.
Update July 29th: Jennifer Gonzales sentenced to 180 days in jail, three years probation, mandatory treatment, and registration as a sex offender. Updated post HERE.
Mt. Nebo Junior High School's special education program may become the most popular program in the state of Utah - at least among 16-year-old boys.
That's because a special education teacher at the school who works with troubled kids was arrested on Monday March 31st, 2008 and charged with having sexual relations with a 16-year-old boy, who was not her student. And her husband was charged with threatening them both with a handgun. Full stories published by the Provo Daily Herald and the Deseret Morning News, and aired by KSL Channel 5.
According to court documents, 31-year-old Richard Gonzales came home early from work and found his wife, 32-year old Jennifer Candida Gonzales and the teen downstairs with candles and oils. He told police he saw the teen run into a bathroom while pulling his pants up. His wife, who was topless, pulled her pants up as well. Court documents also indicate that Jennifer contacted Payson police and told them her husband pointed a 9mm handgun at her and threatened to kill her after he caught her cheating. He also pointed his gun at the teen and told him to get out of the house, she told police. Richard Gonzales admitted to the allegations. The couple lives in Payson.
Jennifer Gonzales was booked into the Utah County Jail on charges of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16-year-old and sexual relations with a youth, but was released on $10,000 bail on Tuesday. Richard Gonzales was charged with aggravated assault, aggravated assault with domestic violence, and criminal mischief. The 16-year-old boy claims he only gave Jennifer a "massage", but did not have sexual intercourse.
Jennifer Gonzales teaches sixth- and seventh-graders in Mt. Nebo Junior High School's Cornerstone Unit, an alternative program for students with behavioral problems. The Cornerstone Unit is separate from the rest of the Payson school. Nebo School District spokeswoman Lana Hiskey said Gonzales is on paid leave pending the outcome of her case. Gonzales has worked at the school since 2005. "Until it's investigated further here at the district level, she will not be back to work," Hiskey said. "We just take this kind of thing very seriously."
Commentary: How common is teacher-student sex? It almost seems epidemic. Even while this case is breaking, KTKA Channel 49 in Topeka, KS is reporting on a female teacher caught having sex with an underage male student in Manhattan, KS. A March 2006 WorldNetDaily article cites a study which indicates that 10 percent of students nationwide have been targeted for unwanted sexual attention by a school employee. In the case of male student-female teacher liaisons, they are kind of winked at by the community as part of a rite of passage for adolescent males. Too many guys laugh about it and ask where those type of teachers were when they were in school.
The problem is that this type of behavior opens up the possibility of academic corruption and other forms of blackmail. A teacher may use the promise of a better grade to pressure a student into sex. This is why this practice cannot be tolerated.