A teacher here in the city stands accused of having sex with a 14-year-old male student. And because the teacher in question is a woman, we're already seeing at least one media outlet treat the story luridly.
Not NBC10, who soberly reported that police charged Stephanie Amato, a special-education teacher at Ethan Allen Elementary in the city’s Mayfair neighborhood, with a slew of charges including statutory sexual assault, unlawful contact with a minor and endangering the welfare of a child. According to police, a 14-year-old student at the school alleges he had sex with the teacher several times. The alleged victim’s father pulled the student from Ethan Allen when he learned of the “relationship.”
Rather, it was the Philadelphia Inquirer, reporting the story last night, who tweeted it out with an oddly jovial tone: "Philadelphia special-ed teacher gives her 14-year-old student special attention: Sex."
Well, isn't that clever.
Obviously, the fact that Amato is female and her alleged victim is male seems to be newsworthy to some. But here's a bigger picture that may be more newsworthy: Despite some folks thinking that male victims of sexual assault are few and far between, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found quite the opposite. Take this key fact: "A 2011 survey of high school students found that 11.8% of girls and 4.5% of boys from grades 9-12 reported that they were forced to have sexual intercourse at some time in their lives." Yes, girls and women are assaulted at far higher numbers, but that's still one out of every 22 boys — or, to consider it another way: on average, about one boy in every public school classroom in America.
That's not a novelty.
Not all cases of sexual assault are categorized as "rape," but they're still assault. That includes having sex with someone who doesn’t possess the ability to give informed consent — such as an individual who's under the legal age of consent in that jurisdiction.
So when allegations of adult teachers sexually abusing students, male or female, make the headlines, here's a word to the headline writers: It's nothing to make light of.
UPDATE: The Philadelphia Inquirer has since apologized, tweeting out this morning about its tweet last night, "An Inquirer tweet about a teacher's arrest on charges she had sex with a student was misguided. Statutory rape is not to be taken lightly."