AMA: The Epidemic of Unlawful Teacher/Student Relationships.

Kurt Michael Brundage
Jul 1, 2018

This AMA will provide a clear examination of why teachers — typically high school teachers — reach a point in their own cognitive distortions when they think it is permissible to carry on an adult-like physical and/or emotional relationship with a student. Questions will be answered from a very personal and unique perspective because I was one of those teachers.

Unfortunately, teachers and school administrators both struggle with the same problem: They are unaware of the actual problem or how to actually fix it; they only see the result, the aftermath, and the damage.

This problem is not simply that teacher and students are having inappropriate relationships. That is merely the result.

The problem is much deeper, much more complex, and much more obvious than anyone wants to admit. Essentially, I am answering the simple (yet complex) question: Why?

Educators see disgraced teachers like me on television, shake their heads at our horrid choices, see we are going to prison, and then never hear from us again; out of sight, out of mind. Therefore, another purpose of this AMA is to provide a glimpse into what happens to teachers when we aren’t the top news story anymore, forced to live in the shadows of humiliation and disgrace. I use my own narrative experience as an eye-opening example of what happens to a teacher, both before the news story airs and after it has faded into the archives.

kurtbrundage.com/

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Looking back at your own personal experience with an unlawful relationship with a student, what did you think you should have done differently?
Jul 6, 2:48PM EDT0

Perspective. That's the big thing. I should have maintained perspective. I was engulfed in a teacher culture which was completely out of control, so I began to view my job and my position as an avenue of social advancement rather than a responsibility to educate the younger generation. As I progressed deeper into the Out-of-Control Culture among the faculty, I lost the perspective of being an educator. And as a result of that, I began making some very destructive choices, culminating with numerous affairs with other teachers as well as making out with a student. 

Jul 18, 12:50PM EDT0
Why do teachers end up with unlawful relationships with students? Why can't they control their feelings knowing that it is not taken well with the society?
Jul 6, 2:46PM EDT0

Essentially, teachers end up with unlawful relationships with students because they cease to view the students as "students" (i.e. their work product) and begin to view them as peers/friends/equals. This loss of perspective is not typically due the teacher being "attracted" to "younger" students, but rather, it is a result of the cognitive distortion which dilutes the thought process and draws the teacher toward the perception that his/her student is of equal social status. Thus, age ceases to be a factor — teachers are not doing this because of the student's age; teachers are doing this in spite of the student's age.

Jul 18, 11:37AM EDT0
How does a teacher foster a positive student/teacher relationship without crossing limits?
Jul 5, 3:49PM EDT0

As long as a teacher maintains perspective, everything remains appropriate. Teachers must be cognizant of the fact that although students are people, they are — in the teacher's professional context — the product of their occupation; the students are a work product, nothing more. Students are not friends, students are not peers. 

Granted, it's okay to be friendly and down-to-earth and personable, but when personable becomes personal, that's when the lines begin to blur.

If a student is having academic struggles, it is the teacher's job to help solve those problems. If a student is having personal problems, they should always be referred to the school counselor. A teacher is not a therapist or a counselor. A teacher is an educator. So when a student confides something deeply personal, the teacher then becomes responsible for that information. This creates (among other things) a delicate and dangerous liability. 

It also creates a bond. And it is from those bonds that the unlawful relationships grow. 

Jul 5, 4:22PM EDT0
Have you tried to make amends with the people you hurt? Have you ever thought about reaching the student you were involved with, her family, and apologize?
Jul 5, 6:20AM EDT0

As far as making amends with the people in my life I've hurt, I have reached out to much of my family to do my best to display how much I've changed over the years. My wife immediately forgave me, but I still — daily — make amends to her. For others, it has taken a bit of time for them to even want to speak to me. Many of my in-laws still refuse to have anything to do with me, which is their choice.

Regarding my former student, I genuinely wish I could, but I am strictly prohibited from having any contact with her or her family. I made my apologies in court during my sentencing hearing, but that's it. And as far as I know, that is where it will have to remain. I don't know where she is or what she's doing or anything, and I'm fine with that. If presented with the opportunity, I would certainly express my remorse. However, I cannot seek the opportunity, ever.

Jul 5, 3:33PM EDT0
Is social media causing or being a factor in the rise of inappropriate teacher-student relationships? What are your thoughts?
Jul 4, 9:34PM EDT0

This issue certainly predates social media, but it's safe to say that the conveniences of communication provided by social media platforms provide an additional avenue through which teachers and students are able to communicate. In my personal situation, social media played little-to-no role, but I've seen multiple instances where social media was a paramount variable. 

For more on this, there is a great organization which advocates this exact issue: www.beabovethefray.org

Jul 5, 3:29PM EDT0
Are your upcoming books related to your experiences as a teacher or will they be about something entirely different?
Jul 3, 11:34PM EDT0

My next mainstream book, Life Noiris a deeper autobiographical look at the life events which culminated with the relationship with my former student and my banishment to prison. It will be released by Black Rose Writing in 2019. Life Noir is the first in a series of four books in The Noir Series. The second book in the series, Letters Noir, gives a detailed account of my time in prison and the dramatic changes I went through as a person — told completely through letters home to my wife. The third book, Love Noir, chronicles a trip I took to Phoenix to give a speech to a national educators convention regarding the issue of unlawful teacher/student relationships, but during the trip, I spent much of my time writing and reflecting about the differing relationships with people who are in (and who have left) my life. The fourth book, Lust Noir, is very detailed and personal insight into what it is like to live and cope with sexual addiction, an issue which is first addressed in Life Noir.

Beyond those nonfiction books, I have a completed fiction projected entitled The Political Science Series (Political Science 101, and its sequel, Political Science 102) which is a series of two books about two friends — a political science professor and a civil rights lawyer — who decide to get the lawyer involved in politics.

My current Work in Progress is a murder mystery entitled Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc, about tracking a serial killer with a very unique signature and unknown motives — until the end...

For more on my other projects, go to www.kurtbrundage.com

Thanks for the question!

Jul 4, 6:41AM EDT0
What were your goals and intentions in After 3 pm, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Jul 3, 11:13AM EDT0

I am trying relentlessly to change the system by being a voice from the outside looking in. This book addresses the issue like nothing ever before. I'm not someone who simply researched the issue, I'm someone who lived the issue. So my perspective is unlike any other; I have a deeper insight than anyone, so I can provide a much deeper and more impactful viewpoint which might actually make a difference. The problem is, school districts are reluctant to address this issue for a multitude of reasons. Actually, I just wrote a blog about it:

kurtbrundage.com/2018/07/02/no-way-out/

Jul 3, 1:17PM EDT0
How did your family’s negative reactions to your behavior after the incident affect you and what measures did you take to repair broken ties with your loved ones?
Jul 3, 5:10AM EDT0

Some of those relationships still have not been repaired. Most of my family was quick to forgive me and show unconditional love. However, my wife's family was a different story. At first, they were furious with her for staying with me, but she is the type of wife who took "For Better or Worse" very seriously. So little-by-little, her family has reestablished contact with me.

Jul 3, 1:11PM EDT0
What measures have you taken to improve your life and reputation since getting out of prison?
Jul 3, 4:41AM EDT0

Well, there really is nothing I can do to improve my reputation. From now on, I will always be that teacher who hooked up with a student. That's just a bitter truth. However, proactive steps toward improving my life as a person include regular therapy, attending a Sex Addicts Annonymous group, and doing everything I can to combat the issue of unlawful teacher/student relationships.

Nothing will ever get rid of the guilt and shame, and I will never be able to apologize to "her" for what happened; so the best thing I can do is live a better life and fight the epidemic to which I contributed.

Jul 3, 1:05PM EDT0
Why do you believe that schools do not want to address the issue or discuss it with their staff, what could they possibly be afraid of if they were more open about these situations?
Jul 3, 2:36AM EDT0

Actually, this question would be best answered by reading my most recent blog:

kurtbrundage.com/2018/07/02/no-way-out/

Jul 3, 12:57PM EDT0
How did the parents of the student you had relations to react to the relationship and have you had any contact with them since being released?
Jul 2, 6:10PM EDT0

I have not spoken directly with them at all. However, their reaction was the correct reaction. They reported it directly to the police instead of reporting it to the school first. All-too-often, when these issues are reported to the school first, the schools tend to handle them "in-house" rather than involving law enforcement — involving law enforcement almost automatically means media involvement as well. That's why this issue is often swept under the rug when the school is the first to be notified. So her parents made the correct decision to report it to law enforcement first.

Jul 3, 12:50PM EDT0
Have you thought of possibly providing workshops on the subject of unlawful teacher-student relationships and their causes to teaching professionals? Why or why not?
Jul 2, 8:05AM EDT0

This is actually my paramount endeavor. Last October, I was invited to speak at a national educators conference in Phoenix, and I received a ton of positive feedback. 

However, as a whole, school districts have been reluctant to address this issue directly because they don’t believe it’s a serious problem. So although I am an excellent public speaker and have a very powerful message, school districts are hesitant to have me speak to their faculty. Because that would mean admitting there’s a problem. 

The book I wrote was originally meant to be a companion to the speeches. Instead, it had become its own entity and the speeches have been surprisingly rare. 

Jul 2, 3:46PM EDT0
When is it ever right to have a relationship with a student? What if it’s true love?
Jul 1, 9:07AM EDT0

NEVER. That is one of the few absolutes about this topic. It is NEVER permissible for a teacher to enter into a physical and/or emotional relationship with a student — even if that student is an 18-year-old senior. In many states (including mine — Kansas), it is illegal for a teacher to have a relationship with an of-age 18-year-old student. It is called "Unlawful Sexual Relations," and is a felony punishable by prison time and sex offender registry. It is in the same category as prison guards who have sex with inmates (which, of course, is also illegal).

The aspect of love is immaterial. It is never okay for a teacher/student relationship to emerge, and therefore it is unacceptable for "love" to even blossom. If a teacher maintains proper boundaries with students at all times, there is a 0% chance that he/she will fall in love with an underage or of-age student. 

What if it's true love? That doesn't even matter because it should never reach that stage in the first place.

At the high school where I taught — Wichita East High School — there was an orchestra teacher who was rumored to have an ongoing physical and emotional relationship with one of his female students. This relationship was never reported to police, but the administration had full knowledge of the rumor, and possibly full knowledge of the relationship. However, the teacher was never reprimanded for this because it was cowardly dismissed by the school administration as an unsubstantiated rumor.

Not long after the student graduated, the two of them got married. So obviously, their relationship began when she was his student.

And by the way, he is still teaching there.

Last edited @ Jul 1, 3:52PM EDT.
Jul 1, 11:36AM EDT0
So why do some teachers still get into a relationship with their students when they know it’s wrong?
Jul 1, 7:20AM EDT1

Great question! And this, essentially, is the whole reason behind why I wrote the book.

Here is the answer: Teachers continue to pursue adult-like relationships with students because they cease to perceive the student as a student, and instead perceive the student as a peer. Therefore, in the cognitively distorted mind of one of these teachers, this is not a relationship with a student, this is a relationship with a peer — a friend — a lover — an equal.

Context is everything. This problem persists because no one is providing the educational community with the much-needed reality check: A multitude of teachers allow themselves to have peer-to-peer "friend" interactions with a multitude of students, and this is not discouraged by school administrations or other teachers because it is often misinterpreted as "connecting" with the students on a "deeper level." And then these same administrators feign their disbelief when one of those "deeper level" connections becomes too deep and becomes sexual. 

This is not television. This is not the movies. This is not Boston Public. No one is John Keating. So as much as a teacher wants to be the teacher who connects on a "deeper level," too many teachers are losing their perspectives and operating within a skewed paradigm.

The absolute and paramount priority of every educator must be to find their own individual way to connect with students on a level which will help the student grow academically while maintaining proper and appropriate boundaries. But for many teachers, there is no line of propriety; for some teachers, that line has become one long blur, and they don't know they've crossed it until it's too far behind them to turn back.

Last edited @ Jul 1, 12:31PM EDT.
Jul 1, 11:25AM EDT0
When you got out of prison, did you feel or experience any kind of discrimination?
Jun 30, 9:25PM EDT0

The simple answer to this question in the general context is, No, none

However, many of my family and (former) friend have chosen to no longer be a part of my life (even going so far as to block me on social media). Additionally, every time I've been in the media for my book or a speech or something, the keyboard warrior internet commenters are never at a shortage of horrendous things to say about me, even if these are people I've never met and who have never read my book. 

I have had numerous encounters of running into someone I'd known from the past (even a few former colleagues), and every face-to-face interaction has been positive.

Jul 1, 11:14AM EDT0
Do you have regrets about the decisions you made in the past about getting into a relationship?
Jun 30, 8:33PM EDT0

To quote Morgan Freeman's character in The Shawshank Redemption,

"Not a day goes by I don't feel regret."

I hurt so many different people on so many different levels due to the choices I made. And as a result, many of those people have completely exited my life.

Do I have regrets? Absolutely. More than I could ever explain. 

However, I have learned one steadfast lesson since being released from prison: The best possible apology is to live a better life.

Jun 30, 9:02PM EDT0
What is the difference between a traditional teacher-student relationship and the modern one? How should an ideal teacher behave?
Jun 30, 2:40PM EDT0

Modern teachers are more personable. Pop culture has presented this image of the "ideal teacher" as someone who changes the lives of students by helping them with their personal struggles. But this is not how it should go. Traditional "old school" teachers are rigid and authoritative; modern teachers are down-to-earth and a bit more casual. The ideal teacher is a teacher to whom the students can relate on a "real" level rather than the authoritative disciplinarian. 

The ideal teacher is someone to whom students can relate, but the teacher also maintains boundaries. There is nothing wrong with teachers talking about their favorite music, sports, etc. However, when information gets more personal (such as personal life details), it begins to cross a line of propriety. When a student comes to a teacher with a personal non-school issue (or crisis), it is not the teacher's responsibility (or even the teacher's place) to provide advice or feedback regarding a student's personal issues. This is precisely why schools employ school counselors. Teachers are not school counselors, and when students begin sharing deeply-personal information with a teacher, the teacher becomes responsible for knowledge of this information as well as liable for anything resulting in any advice the teacher gives the student. 

Essentially, the ideal teacher is friendly. But the ideal teacher is not a friend.

Jun 30, 6:24PM EDT0
At what point do you think the relationship between a teacher and a student should be considered unhealthy?
Jun 30, 2:02PM EDT0

When conversations and interactions between a teacher and a student go beyond educational or content-oriented topics, a teacher begins to toe the line. Granted, there is nothing wrong with teachers talking about their favorite music, sports, etc. However, when information gets more personal (such as personal life details), it begins to cross a line of propriety. Also, when a student is talking to the teacher and he/she begins to confide in the teacher — family problems, relationship issues, substance abuse, etc. — it is not the teacher's responsibility to provide advice or feedback. It is the teacher's obligation to refer the student to the school counselor. Teachers are not school counselors, and when students begin sharing deeply-personal information with a teacher, the teacher becomes responsible for knowledge of this information as well as liable for anything resulting in any advice the teacher gives the student. 

Students are people, obviously. But essentially, students are the work product of the teacher. The teacher's paramount responsibility is to use his/her content area to broaden the intellectual spectrum of every student, preparing them for the subsequent stages of their lives.

Also, it should be 100% off limits for teachers to connect with students via social media (which is quite common) and it should be 100% off limits for teachers to provide their personal cell phone numbers to students (which is quite common as well). If a student needs to contact a teacher, every teacher has a district-issued email address and most teachers now have classroom phones. There is no need to connect with students with social media, text messages, or personal phone calls.

Jun 30, 5:58PM EDT0
You have published After 3 PM that explores the damaging epidemic of the unlawful relationship between students and teachers. What prompted you to write the book?
Jun 30, 11:09AM EDT0

There has been research on this issue, but not a comprehensive book on the topic. I wanted to write a book from a perspective no one had ever provided — an inside perspective from someone who committed the crime, did the time, and did some honest reflection about why I did what I did. 

did not write After 3PM to make money. In fact, I sought out a publisher (in this case, Morgan James Publishing) who offered "Partnership Agreements" rather than traditional publishing contracts. After submitting the manuscript and having it accepted by the publisher, I made a $5,000 investment into the printing and distribution of the book. From the beginning, I did not want to make money from this. 

I wanted to write a book which teachers could read and: a) see what actually happens to a teacher who has a relationship with a student; b) what the actual causes of these behaviors are; and c) provide tools to teachers to help them see the warning signs in their peers. 

Essentially, I wrote this book because it needed to be written.

I answer this question and several others in this interview:

Last edited @ Jun 30, 6:08PM EDT.
Jun 30, 6:07PM EDT0
How has writing your book changed your understanding or perception of the events that occured?
Jun 29, 11:31PM EDT0

Writing After 3PM afforded me the opportunity to not only explore my own destructive choices, but to also explore the issue as a whole. For me, as an intellectual person, I wanted to know why I did what I did. However, I was never looking for anything or anyone to blame for my choices.

Essentially, I wanted to answer two questions: "Why did I think the choices I made would be acceptable?" and "What is the actual cause of these relationships?" And in the book, I managed to answer both questions through extensive research and deep soul searching.

It changed my understanding in one significant way: I now believe this is a problem which can be significantly decreased, if only school administrations would address the issue and address it properly.

One thing I've learned, though: Schools do not want to even address the issue, they don't want to discuss it with their staff — they want to pretend like it isn't happening and only deal with it when it occurs.

Jun 30, 5:45PM EDT0
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