While talking with a friend who was sexually abused by an educator as I was, I learned of a movie recently released by Hollywood that literally makes my stomach turn.
The Boy Next Door, starring Jennifer Lopez, glamorizes a sexual relationship between a newly-separated female teacher and a teenage boy whom she held a position of trust over. This is the summary found online of this disturbing movie:
When a handsome, charming teenager named Noah (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door, newly separated high-school teacher Claire Peterson (Jennifer Lopez) encourages his friendship and engages in a little bit of harmless -- or so she thinks -- flirtation. Although Noah spends much of the time hanging out with Claire's son, the teen's attraction to her is palpable. One night, Claire gives in to temptation and lets Noah seduce her -- but when she tries to end the relationship, he turns violent.
There are so many disturbing points to this movie that we must take them one by one.
- This teacher "encourages" and "engages in a little bit of harmless flirtation" with her student. There IS no such thing as "harmless flirtation" by an educator toward a student. Do you remember being a teenager? Did you feel like a child? Of COURSE you didn't. Did you feel like you were just as mature as all of the other adults you knew? Yes...you did. And yet, looking back on that time, would you say that you indeed were as mature as actual adults during those years? No. In fact, most people look back on the decisions they made at that time of life with rolling eyes at best, and deep regret at worst. To assume that it is OK for an educator to send sexual messages to a student (which is what flirting is) is a gross lapse of judgement, and not becoming a person worthy of that most trusted profession.
- The student is characterized as "handsome" and "charming" in an attempt to justify this teacher's reprehensible behavior. I don't care if this student is Prince Charming himself, that is no excuse for inappropriate sexual advances by an educator to a student. If there is some mystical level of attractiveness that makes a student irresistible to an educator, that educator has no business being around minors. We want people with actual self-control and professional standards working in our schools.
- The description of this teacher as "newly-separated" seems to imply that because this teacher had personal problems, we are somehow to excuse her atrocious behavior. Every person has emotional issues going on in their lives. Parents expect that the educators with whom they place their most sacred trust...their children...for several hours a day, should be able to leave their personal problems at home and keep their children safe when they are in their care.
- "The teen's attraction to her is palpable". When it is believed that a student has inappropriate feelings towards any adult, it is the responsibility of that adult to separate themselves from that situation. In a school setting, the educator needs to notify administration, have the student moved to a different class if possible, and ensure that they are never alone with that student. That is the only way to protect themselves from inappropriate situations, and accusations of such.
- "Claire gives in to temptation and lets Noah seduce her". This tries to put the blame squarely on the student. There is a reason why every law in the nation says that children under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual behavior with an adult. Minors are still developing and their brains are literally still forming the portions which are responsible for helping them determine consequences for their behaviors. Regardless of the behavior of the child, it is always up to the adult in any such situation to protect the student, even from themselves if need be.
- "...but when she tries to end the relationship, he turns violent." Again, this movie wants to make the student into the criminal. Obviously, anyone who tries to murder someone else is, indeed a criminal. But this movie tries to make this teacher appear weak, vulnerable and seduced by a child. The real criminal? The educator who uses a student for their own sexual gratification.
Ask yourself this question, if this boy were your son, would you see the teacher as a victim? Or a perpetrator? I have been the student. And one out of every 10 students will be the victim of such a teacher before they graduate from high school. It is a slap in the face to victims everywhere, along with their families, to make such a horrendous film that minimizes sexual misconduct by educators and the devastating consequences they cause.
I am asking you to not only boycott this film, but to stand up against anything that degrades our good teachers and justifies sexual advances against our children. Don't let Hollywood sully the reputations of our amazing teachers, or excuse the horrendous behavior of the few educators who would already justify inappropriate sexual contact with their students. Don't let them place inappropriate fantasies in the mind of our children, or send this horrendous conglomeration of misinformation, all to make money without any regard for the thousands upon thousands of victims they offend and the untold harm they will cause.