A former Nashville, Tennessee, biology teacher stands accused by authorities of statutory rape for allegedly performing sexual acts on five 17-year-old students.
The suspect, who taught at Nashville’s Pearl Cohn High School before resigning in December 2014, is Marquita Alston, 24, according to multiple media accounts.
Cops in the sex crimes unit have been investigating since late November 2014, but only recently made an arrest in the case. Local prosecutors formally received the case file on May 2015.
Some of the incidents involving the biology teacher that allegedly took place in the September-November 2014 time frame reportedly occurred on school grounds.
According to the Tennessean, the school principal alerted authorities on November 24, 2014, about “disturbing information she had received about the teacher, police said. In the following months, detectives interviewed multiple people including students, where they were told that Alston had sexual contact with several teens.”
The school system put the teacher on administrative leave at that time prior to her resignation a few days later.
After her recent arrest of five counts of statutory rape, Alston was released on a $1,000 bond. The investigation is apparently ongoing, suggesting that more alleged victims could come forward.
Around the time the accusations first surfaced, the Metro Nashville Public Schools released a statement that “Student safety is always our No. 1 priority. MNPS is cooperating fully with Metro Police in the investigation.”
“Those involved with the case said Alston’s arrest took a while to happen because authorities had to go through the five victim’s phones to recover text messages and interview the victims and their families, which took a couple of years,” Nashville’s News Channel 5 explained.
“Joe Bass with Metro Nashville Public Schools confirmed Alston has not been allowed on school property and hasn’t worked for the school system in two years,” News Channel 5 added.
In general, statutory rape is an offense in which an adult has relations with a minor or someone of a chronological age where he or she lacks the legal capacity to give consent. Sex crime laws (i.e., statutes), including the age of consent and penalties for offenses, vary substantially from state to state.
The local NBC affiliate in Nashville aired this report at the time the teacher was originally accused of inappropriate conduct with students.
Unrelated to the Nashville incident, writing in the Washington Post in January 2015, former U.S. Department of Education official Terry Abbot, who runs a firm that tracks sexual misconduct by educators, claimed that the nationwide increase in such sexually abusive relationships is a function of the prevalence of social media and cell phone text messaging.
“Classroom sexual predators have been exploiting these new, unsupervised modes of communication to develop improper relationships with students out of sight of parents and principals. These instantaneous, omnipresent and discreet connections have created an open gateway for inappropriate behavior. Last year, at least 281 school employees — 36 percent of those accused or convicted of an inappropriate relationship with a student – were reported to have used social media to start or continue those relationships. I suspect the percentage actually is significantly higher, since news accounts don’t always reveal when social media was a factor in these interactions…While male school employees were the perpetrators in two-thirds of all reported sexual misconduct cases with students in 2014, women were more likely to use social media to lure students. In our tracking, 40 percent of the women in these cases used social media as a tool for their crimes, compared to 35 percent of men.”
That being said, given the apparent growing incidence of teacher-student sex scandals, one fundamental question is whether this kind of misconduct is occurring with more frequency and intensity across America or, in the alternative, do we just happen to find out about it more often and faster now by way of the 24-hour online media news cycle?
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