Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Predator Teacher Jennifer Gonzales Sentenced To 180 Days In Jail By Provo, Utah Judge For Seducing 16-Year-Old Special Education Student
At a sentencing hearing on Monday July 28th, 2008 at Provo's 4th District Court, Judge Samuel McVey sentenced sexual predator Jennifer Gonzales to 180 days in jail, 36 months of probation and ordered her to complete a sex offender treatment program. She will also be required to register as a sex offender. Primary story published by the Provo Daily Herald with a supplemental report by KSL Channel 5.
As previously described in my June 4th post, Gonzales, 32, pleaded guilty in June to two counts of attempted forcible sexual abuse, a third-degree felony. As part of her plea deal, the charges were reduced from forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony.
Defense attorney Mike Esplin asked Judge McVey to sentence her to probation with GPS monitoring so she would be able to keep the two jobs she has been working since being fired from Mt. Nebo Junior High School in Payson following her arrest. But McVey said he was concerned about the 15-year age difference between Gonzales and her victim, as well as by the fact that Gonzales was entrusted by the victim's family and by society at large to care for him. In addition, it has since been learned that the encounter was NOT just a one-time "good deal". After Gonzales was arrested, the victim initially defended her because he believed they were in love and had a serious relationship. But after further investigation, the victim revealed that there was more sexual contact between the two than initially disclosed. It is still unknown how long the two carried on a sexual relationship.
As previously described in my April 2nd post on this situation, 31-year-old Richard Gonzales came home early from work and found his wife Jennifer and the 16-year old victim, who was not one of her formally-assigned students, 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. Richard then allegedly pointed a 9mm handgun at her and threatened to kill her after he caught her cheating. He also allegedly pointed his gun at the teen and told him to get out of the house, she told police.
Richard Gonzales admitted to the allegations, and was initially charged with aggravated assault, aggravated assault with domestic violence, and criminal mischief. Downgraded shortly thereafter to two counts of two counts of aggravated assault, he pleaded no contest in June to threatening or using a dangerous weapon in a fight, and was sentenced to 18 months of probation. The couple filed for divorce in May.
At the time of her arrest, Jennifer Gonzales was employed as a teacher at Mt. Nebo Junior High School in Payson since 2005, where she taught sixth and seventh graders at the school's Cornerstone Unit, an alternative program for students with behavioral problems. Initially placed on paid leave after her arrest, the Nebo School District fired her shortly thereafter.
Commentary: Initially, there was talk that Jennifer Gonzales would receive no jail time. Obviously, this was before the full extent of the relationship with the student was revealed. While the jail sentence will cost Gonzales her two jobs, it will send a message that this type of behavior will NOT be tolerated.
Unfortunately, this type of behavior is hardly a fluke. Visit the Schoolteachernews.com website, and see the Scandals Page for links to many other news stories about similar teacher predation nationwide.
Part of the problem is cultural schizophrenia. While male teachers who engage in this sort of behavior are rightfully stigmatized and considered scumbags, the societal attitude towards female teachers engaging in this type of behavior is considerably more equivocal. Many guys will ask "Where was she when I was going to school?". Indeed, female predator teachers have actually been celebrated in our pop culture, as evidenced in this YouTube video of Van Halen singing "Hot For Teacher". The music itself is great, but the message really sucks.
What we need is for students to become less "hot for teacher" and become more "hot for learning".