#legal problems
7 February 2008

I am in love with my teacher but he recently got married

Dear experts
I have a problem and need some advice. There is a teacher in my classroom who stares at me a lot, whenever I enter the classroom he makes eye contact with me. I feel like he’s attracted to me. I heard he even got married a few months ago. I like him as a teacher, we have NO relationship whatsoever and never will be. This really bothers me. Once when he stared at me he couldn’t stop staring at me. He hasn’t done anything inappropriate to me. Please help me what should I do? Does he have a crush on me? Should I report him? I’m in love with him. I know this is wrong but I just fell in love with him. When I heard he got married I was shocked, I was falling apart. This hurts so much. So much suffering and sadness. Please help me, what should I do? Should I forget him?
Thanks a lot.

JP Duc

Hi Sie,

Thank you for your question. A teacher-student relationship is a delicate balance, because the teacher, coach, tutor, school staff are in position of trust, authority and dependency. Because of this, a sexual or love relationship cannot exist between student and teacher. Canadian and US laws are very clear about this: the laws vary slightly but resemble each other… A person of majority (18, 19 in Canada, 21 in most of the USA) cannot have consensual sexual relationships with a person under the age of 14 in Canada and 16 or 18 in most of the United States. Even though you are over 14 (which is the legal age in Canada to consent for a sexual relationship), it is still considered an offence for an adult to have any such contact with boys and girls over 14 but under 18, where a relationship of trust or authority exists between the adult and child. Courts of law look at factors such as age difference, evolution of the relationship, and control or influence over the young person.

Your reaction to a good teacher can at the beginning be feelings of admiration and respect but those feelings may transform over time and become feelings of attraction or even perceived love. Because of the time you spend at school, (proximity factor), because the teacher is a mature adult and may demonstrate qualities you like (influence factor) you may be developing feelings that to you are genuine, but may or may not exist in reality, an attraction that some people refer to as a “crush”.

It takes two people to have sustained eye contact. If you feel uncomfortable with this teacher it would be a good idea to try and change classes, if possible. If not you will probably be in a different class next year in high school. It is better that you and this teacher stay away from each other because any relationship or a relation perceived by others around you (school staff or other students), could lead to legal problems for your teacher and a public embarrassment to you, your school and your family.

Because the teacher is an adult and is in a position of authority, it is his responsibility not to engage in this type of behavior, like staring at you, or showing affection towards you that could lead you to believe that he is attracted to you. Teachers and school administrators are supposed to go through training for this exact reason. At the same time it is your responsibility as a student not to tease or lead on a person that you know to be in a position of authority (this means not dressing in a way to provoke, or using body language or verbalizing intentions in a sexual way). A tap on the shoulder or a hug can be considered appropriate in some circumstances and totally inappropriate in others; most teachers are well aware of this and judge carefully what is and isn’t appropriate.

A teacher is fully responsible for their actions : most teachers sign a contract upon hiring which include a barrage of legal agreements that they must accept and sign before being hired. Since the teacher is in a position of power and trust, and are adults (usually above 21) it is their responsibility to act in an appropriate way, even when students do not. If you feel a teacher or any other person in authority is verbally or physically harassing you, you should report it to another trusted teacher, your school guidance counsellor, school nurse or other senior school staff. Harassment and sexual abuse are unacceptable under any circumstances.

Certain boundaries must exist between a teacher and a student, between a coach and an athlete, between a doctor and a patient, between a counsellor and a camper. Without these boundaries in place, trust-based relationships or mentoring relationship could not exist. These boundaries must exist regardless of gender, age and sexual orientation. The situation mentioned above is also a question of legality of a consensual sexual relationship which also cannot, in this case, exist between an adult and a minor.

I hope this has helped you clarify what behavior is adequate is this type of situation. I am sorry you are feeling this way and are feeling a great deal of distress because of this situation. I think you definitely should talk about your feelings to trusted friends, family members or even the school psychologist or counsellor, so as not to remain alone in this situation. Good luck and please write to us again if you have other questions,

JP, for AlterHeros.