Posted on | October 14, 2014 | 87 Comments
Lauren Harrington Cooper, 32, was Exhibit A earlier this year in my argument “that America’s public schools are staffed by sex-crazed perverts.” Every day brings new reports of teachers who cannot restrain their depraved craving for teenage flesh. Ms. Cooper was an English teacher in Pennsylvania whose modus operandi involved giving boys blow jobs in her car. Last month, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced to “9 to 23 months in the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, followed by five years of probation.” This quote from a Huffington Post story about her case caught my attention:
In court, Cooper’s lawyer told the judge his client, who is still married, has severe emotional problems.
“She has been diagnosed with some significant psychological issues of inadequacy,” Joe D’Andrea said. “You would think that she’s a pretty, young girl, that she would feel good about herself. But her self-esteem issues have really troubled her all of her life, and she found comfort and solace in some people giving her attention, as wrong as it was.”
In other words, his client — the English teacher who performed oral sex on teenage boys — is not really responsible for her crimes, because of her “issues of inadequacy.” She’s “troubled.” She suffers from a self-esteem deficit, and what she was seeking from these teenage boys was “comfort and solace.” Also, the taste of their semen.
“I’m glad I got caught,” she told ABC News’ “20/20” exclusively. “I went against what I know is right, and I did wrong. And there is no way to explain that away. I have no defense of myself. I was wrong, plain and simple.”
Her forbidden affairs began after she opened a dance studio in her town with her husband, Raphael Cooper. The new side-business was time-consuming and took a toll on their marriage.
“It turned into more of a business relationship than a marriage,” she said. “With us deteriorating in our marriage and having less and less of a relationship, I didn’t feel attractive. I didn’t feel wanted.”
And so she started sucking on teenage boys. Isn’t that the obvious thing to do, if you don’t “feel attractive,” don’t “feel wanted”? Because your feelings are all that matter, see, and if your marriage is less than fully satisfying in terms of your emotional needs, it is imperative that you do something to make you feel better about yourself, i.e., give a teenage boy a blowjob. Violating every ethical code of your profession? Betraying the trust of taxpayers and parents? That’s OK, because your marriage is unhappy and you don’t “feel wanted.”
“It wasn’t so much that I even needed a physical connection. It was just being able to interact with someone who made me feel valued and worthwhile,” Mrs. Cooper said. “As crazy as this might sound to some people, he’s very intelligent. I could have real conversations with him about real life issues.”
And, as crazy as this might sound to some people, Ms. Cooper’s rationalizations are the same as every pedophile, ever. That is to say, her explanation of her crimes is not really unusual, it’s typical. There is a bright line — very hard to overlook — between your need to “feel valued and worthwhile” and the crimes that will send you to prison. People who cross that line always have an excuse, an explanation for why they did what they did, and this story the criminal tells invariably involves an element of self-pity. The criminal wants to be seen as a victim.
The criminal uses euphemisms (“a physical connection . . . interact with someone”) that have the effect of minimizing her crimes. The plain fact of what the criminal did must be obscured and her perverse motive must be hidden behind psychobabble about the criminal’s emotional needs. Why? Because Ms. Cooper doesn’t want you to see her as what she actually is, a sexual deviant with an appetite for teenage boys.
Law enforcement officials in Pennsylvania are angry about Ms. Cooper’s 20/20 interview. They say she misrepresented her crimes:
In the eyes of Luzerne County investigators, former Wyoming Valley West teacher Lauren Harrington-Cooper lied to the world Friday night in a television interview. . . .
“The bottom line is she pled guilty to all the charges,” said Luzerne County Detective Charles Balogh, the lead detective in the teacher-student sex case that has made headlines around the globe. “She’s not accepting responsibility or guilt for what she did. She accepted the consequences, but doesn’t want to admit to the facts. It doesn’t make sense.” . . .
On the show, Harrington-Cooper said, “I did do wrong, but I’m not a monster,” a comment that drew ire from Balogh.
“I think she is a monster,” Balogh said. “She’s a true predator.” . . .
In addition to Victim No. 1, prosecutors accused Harrington-Cooper of performing oral sex on a 17-year-old boy and sending sexual messages to two other boys, aged 16 and 17. Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Jenny Roberts, the lead prosecutor in the case, maintains Harrington-Cooper was trying to deny what she did. She said the denials fly in the face of the overwhelming evidence against the former teacher.
“Obviously, she does not want the public to know the extent of what she actually did. But she did admit her guilt in court with a factual basis that covers all four victims,” Roberts said. “I guess she doesn’t want the nation to know the full extent of her crimes.” . . .
While Harrington-Cooper admitted to having sexual encounters with the 18-year-old, she was very deceptive in the interview about how the relationship developed, Balogh and Roberts said.
She told “20/20” that the 18-year-old senior, Victim No. 1, sent her complimentary text messages after getting her cellphone number. His compliments bolstered her sagging self-esteem, she said.
Local investigators say Harrington-Cooper was the one who pursued the teen.
“She blamed Victim No. 1 for chasing her, when, in fact, she was the one who reached out to Victim No. 1 by reaching out to his sister. She provided her cellphone number and said she thinks he’s hot,” Balogh recalled.
The way Roberts interpreted it, Harrington-Cooper was insinuating she was playing “hard to get” when the teen started texting her.
“That’s not what happened at all. There was no playing hard to get,” Roberts said. “She was pursuing him.”
You see the profoundly immature aspect of Ms. Cooper’s personality. She’s already been convicted and sentenced to prison. Yet her narcissistic self-esteem — how she feels about herself — is still controlling how she talks about her crimes. She minimizes and rationalizes and uses esuphemistic language because it would make her feel bad if people thought she was a “monster” who gets her sick thrills by performing oral sex on teenage boys. Perverts like her are everywhere:
- VIRGINIA — A Henrico County art teacher was arrested and charged with taking indecent liberties with someone less than 18 years old after an incident at Highland Springs High School.
Police arrested Tessa Monique Hairston, 31, on Friday.
“The charge stems from an inappropriate relationship involving a juvenile male that occurred at Highland Springs High School while Ms. Hairston was employed as a teacher by Henrico County Public Schools,” Henrico Police spokesman Lt. Chris Eley said in an email.
- ARKANSAS — A Siloam Springs teacher that was accused of having sex with a student pleaded not guilty on Monday (Oct. 13), officials say.
Mary F. McCormick, 32, was arraigned before Circuit Judge Brad Karren on Monday, accused of raping and exchanging explicit photographs with a 13-year-old boy.
- LOUISIANA — Destrehan High School teachers Shelley Dufresne and Rachel Respess were drinking alcohol on the night they engaged in group sex with a 16-year-old student, according to records released Thursday by the Kenner Police Department. . . .
The student, now 17, had told St. Charles Parish sheriff’s deputies that he had sex with the two English teachers at Respess’ apartment in Kenner on Sept. 12. That was a Friday, the night of the Destrehan Wildcats-Helen Cox Cougars football game.
- CONNECTICUT — Stamford High School Donna Valentine and assistant principal Roth Nordin have been charged with not reporting an alleged sexual relationship between a teacher and student.
Police say English teacher Danielle Watkins, 32, had sexual relationship with the 18-year-old student for about 10 months. Police also say Watkins assaulted the student when he tried to end the relationship. Watkins is also accused of selling marijuana to the 18-year-old and a second 15-year-old student.
- VIRGINIA — Erica Lynne Mesa, 27, a geometry teacher and freshman volleyball coach at Colonial Forge High School, “admitted to police of having sexual relations with at least four students,” according to court documents.
Mesa is charged with three counts of custodial indecent liberties and three counts of using a computer to solicit a minor. She was arrested Sept. 29. Detective Sgt. Chris Cameron wrote in affidavits for search warrants that the incidents started in 2012 and continued up until a week before her arrest. Court records list the students’ ages as ranging from 16 to 18.
- TEXAS — During the 2013-2014 school year, five teachers at Permian High School were charged with sexually molesting students. In May, Alisha Carrasco Knighten, a 25-year-old assistant softball coach and a junior high physical education teacher, resigned amid rumors of an inappropriate relationship with a female student (she was subsequently indicted). A week after Knighten resigned, another teacher Mark Lampman, 47, committed suicide after resigning amid allegations that he had sex with a student.
They all had some “self-esteem issues,” I’m sure.