So Jeremy Forrest is guilty of child abduction. He's got five and a half years. Juries are generally sensible and I haven't been following the court reports that closely - but here's something I wrote about it when the story first broke back in October...
A TEACHER I know asked her Year Ten class 'So what do you think of this Jeremy Forrest thing? You know the maths teacher guy who ran off to France with a student?' The response was instant and predictable.
'He's a paedo, miss!'
'He should be castrated, miss!'
And then she asked them if any of them had ever had crushes on teachers. After a pause, about eight raised their hands. My friend the teacher twitched an eye-brow. There was laughter, and another eight hands went up. Sixteen out of a class of 25 fifteen year olds. Makes you think.
And of course, this Jeremy Forrest, this man, this maths teacher, has stepped over a line. He has - whether consciously or not - abused the power relationship between student and faculty.More specifically, he has, in the words of another friend of mine, 'been a complete twit.'
But desire, love, makes twits of us all. Makes complete fucking arses of us all. Who hasn't made a dick of themselves because of desire? Who doesn't, even now, suddenly feel a hot rush of shame at the thought of something we did or said to the wrong person because love - or what we thought was love - had seized the driving wheel of our psyche.
Here's a sum - the average maths teacher teaches twenty classes a week. Most groups he will see three or four times in that week, so he's working with 100 different kids each year. In a ten year teaching career that is a thousand different pupils. In that time it would be staggering if a young, handsome, personable, clever teacher didn't collect a fair few admirers. Some of them passionate, some of them wily, several of them very beautiful and very smart themselves. No surprise that maybe with some of them he makes a real live adult connection. No surprise that feelings grow, especially if he's hired by the parents to give extra maths tuition. Especially if the school apparently turns a blind eye when he sits holding hands with the girl on the way back from a school trip to the States.
And of course, he shouldn't act on these feelings. Of course he should be responsible. And if he can't control himself, he should be sacked, no question. But should he be in jail? Should he be branded a paedo? Should he be on the sex offenders register for life?
Interesting that he ran away to France, where the age of consent is fifteen. Where, in fact, he has committed no crime and where he and the student could, if they chose, live together openly and have children and lead an entirely respectable life. In five years time Monsieur and Madame Forrest could be on the PTA committee of their own kids' ecole.
I guess that won't happen though. I guess that he'll be destroyed and the relationship will fall apart pretty quickly - it almost certainly would have done anyway, but what relationship could withstand the pressure this one is getting now?
And I'm willing to bet that in ten years time Jeremy Forrest will still be avoiding the eyes of strangers, fearful that he'll be attacked as a nonce, while in another part of the world, over a few bottles of chilled Pinot Grigio, the girl might well be telling this amazing story of how she once ran off with her maths teacher. And after she's told it, most of her audience will chime in with stories of how they themselves once kissed their teacher, or almost did, or wanted to.
And, just in case, you were wondering, I was a teacher for ten years. And, no, nothing like this happened to me. Not really. But then I was already 30 when I became a teacher. And teenagers - with their rubbish music and their dodgy fashions and unformed opinions never really did it for me - but it is an occupational hazard and silly not to acknowledge that every now and again in a long career you might meet a sixth former for whom - if you weren't their teacher - you might have made an idiot of yourself over.
Women as well as men by the way. Just this week I had a conversation with another ex-colleague who told of a kid who had a crush on her, who was, in the end, expelled for various idiocies. 'And thank God he was.' she said. 'Because everyone in the staff room knew he had a crush on me - and they all joked about it - but what they didn't know, was that I had one on him. He was 14.'
And my former colleague is the best teacher I've ever met.
Anyway, if you want to read more you should look at my novel TAG -- because one of the slightly annoying things about this whole Jeremy Forrest thing is that the two of them seem to have lifted chunks of my book to inform their escape plan...