Connecticut Special Ed Teacher in Court: The Problem of Teacher Sexual Assault

Credit: Morgue File

Laura Ramos, 31, was until very recently a special education teacher for Central High School in Connecticut. In June, Ramos turned herself in after local police issued a warrant for her arrest.

Prior to that, she had been put on administrative leave by Central High School because of the allegations that got her arrested, to which she confessed after turning herself in. She also reportedly quit her job officially when she was arrested.

Ramos is now being charged with second-degree sexual assault for having sex with one of her male, special education students, multiple times.

The story came to light when one of Ramos’  fellow teachers told their principal that another student had said something about Ramos having sex with one of the special education students. The police were called to the school by principal Eric Graf on the same day he placed Ramos on administrative leave upon learning about the allegations. The student overheard by Ramos’ coworker spoke to police, indicating that Ramos’ inappropriate behavior may have extended beyond sex with a student. That student “told police that Ramos had been texting him for some time, sharing her personal issues while complaining that ‘her guy’ wanted to end the relationship and the illicit trysts.” He also told them that “he often saw Ramos and a male student ‘making eyes at each other, like flirting,’ according to police.”

In her first meeting with a police investigator, Ramos denied having any type of sexual relationship with the student but did admit that they were “close.”

Since then, however, she has admitted to having a sexual relationship with the student since at least December of 2016 and allegedly lasting through April of this year. She reported that they would have sex “mostly in her car,” according to police.

Ramos put up the $50,000 bail to get out of jail until her court appearance.

On Wednesday, Ramos appeared in court for her arraignment and was accompanied by her husband. Her next court appearance will be a plea hearing, which is currently scheduled for July 25th.

While age of consent laws vary state to state, with Connecticut’s being 16, the issue at hand here is less about the age difference and more about power, positions of authority, and consent.

“Even though they both are over the age of consent, a teacher or coach or other person in authority in Connecticut can still face criminal charges if he or she has sex with a student or minor they are supervising.”

It is likely that this story is facing less of the typical romanticization that seems to come with stories about female teachers sexually assaulting male students because the student is special needs. In this case, it is impossible to deny the authority and responsibility Ramos had in this situation, as well as the ability to manipulate and coerce her vialleged victim.

One of the most famous cases, where the sexual assault gets at least somewhat romanticized, is the case of Mary Kay Letourneau. In 2005 she married her former student, who she had served plenty of jail time for sexually assaulting and who she has had multiple children with. Her victimization of Vili Fualaau began when he was 12 years old. Even calling that situation a relationship contributes to the normalization of what is really sexual assault, where one person has incredible power and the other, because of that power imbalance, cannot actually consent.

Just this week, President Trump’s comments about Brigitte Macron, wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, resurfaced the story the story of their “relationship.”

Donald Trump’s comments about her being “in great shape,” did not come merely from a place of sexism (which they definitely did), they also called attention to the significant age difference between the Macrons. Though that age difference is identifical to that between Trump and wife Melania, the difference is that the American First Couple met when they were both adults, well past the age of consent in any state.

In Macron’s case, however, Brigitte was his teacher and they met when he was only 15-years-old. In France, as in an astounding number of US states, the age of consent is 15. That being said, most statutory rape and sexual assault laws disregard age of consent when there is a clear power imbalance, as with a student and a teacher. Age of consent laws are intrinsically centered around the imbalance of power intrinsic to a dramatic age difference when a person is not yet an adult. A 21 year old has more experience and power over a 14-year-old. No matter how old the older person is, however, if they are a teacher or another type of authority figure, consent is not possible.

The situation is, of course, complicated when the relationship lasts, as in the case of Letourneau and Macron, because the relationship extends into adulthood, where lack of consent is harder to prove.

Just because a now adult person claims to consent to a “relationship” they’ve been a part of since before they could consent, does not mean that that relationship is not problematic, if not dangerous. More to the point, the way that we talk about these “relationships” is important because normalizing them as often occurs further disempowers young boys who are made to feel that it is an accomplishment if an older woman wants them, even if she is a teacher or authority figure and he cannot actually consent to the relationship.

A 2014 study found that almost 7 % of middle and high school students were targeted for physical sexual abuse by authority figures like teachers and coaches and others working for their schools, meaning millions of students. At that time, approximately 75 % of teachers were women.

Because of gender bias, it is likely that sexual abuse by women is under-reported. It is also that same gender bias which contributes to young boys and even girls from having the support and know-how when dealing with a potential sexual predator who is in a position of authority. The concept that women are not sexual predators not only affects administrations and authorities from taking proper precaution or handing down equitable justice for their crimes, it also means that their victims feel that they won’t be taken seriously or even that they’ll be judged by their peers and others for “complaining.”

Additionally, the gender roles assumed by boys who will become men create a situation where they aren’t seen as victims, for example. “It is still socially acceptable for the male student to become victimized,” according to a California criminal attorney. “Therefore the sex crime was welcomed by the male victim,” or viewed as welcome, or preventable if consent were not present, “because he had the physical strength to prevent said crime.”

A study from 2003 to 2013 found that male teachers who prey on their students receive notably harsher punishments than their female counterparts for the same crimes.

Normalizing any type of abuse, sexual assault, or nonconsensual activity, including minimizing it, romanticizing it, or shaming the victim (“he should have wanted it, she’s a hot older woman”) contributes to perpetuating this problem and increases the number of victims as well as the number of victims who won’t report because they don’t feel like they have anything they should report.

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