"The lesson is simple. Teachers don't have sex with students."
So said prosecutor William C. Mulford II after the conviction Wednesday of former Anne Arundel County high school teacher Ronald W. Price.
To most people, it's an obvious lesson. Incredibly, it remains lost on Price, his wife and his two clueless attorneys. After six months of public castigation, reams of discussion about the proper relationship between teachers and students and now a guilty verdict, they still don't see that what Price did was wrong.
The most shocking aspect of this trial was not the victims' graphic descriptions of escapades with their former teacher everywhere from catwalks above the Northeast High auditorium xTC to kitchen stoves. It was Price's audacious, indefensible defense that teachers having sex with underage students shouldn't be a crime.
Attorneys Jonathan Resnick and Timothy F. Umbreit actually argued that child abuse laws prohibiting sex between teachers and pupils are outdated. Because girls today look and dress older, the lawyers claimed, it's OK for teachers to go to bed with them. Mrs. Price, the lone defense witness besides her husband, defiantly insisted it was perfectly acceptable for her to sleep with Price when she was his teen-age student because "I was mature for my age."
Parents, students and educators who care about children are smart enough to recognize this twisted logic for the garbage it is. Teachers have no business getting involved with students, no matter how "mature" or willing they may be.
Price's liaisons struck many as especially heinous because he is nearly 50. But even for teachers in their 20s -- who may have more in common with older students than some of their colleagues -- relationships with students constitute a conflict of interest and a violation of their caretaker role.
Until now, school systems have failed to prevent these relationships even as they officially frowned on them. And it isn't just Anne Arundel County that's to blame; high schools in other jurisdictions are similarly full of whispered stories of teachers who crossed the line.
The line must be made clearer. School systems need policies that not only discourage dating between teachers and students but also prohibit it. Let the lesson of the Price case -- that educators mustn't get involved with the children they teach -- not be lost on anyone but him.