“Nobody was really willing to testify or give a statement that said, ‘yes, this happened.”
The estate of a high school student who committed suicide after being molested by a married teacher who was convicted of having sex with four underage boys has filed a lawsuit against a Nevada school district, a local news outlet reported Friday.
18-year-old Corbin Madison was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last August. According to a lawsuit filed by his estate, he was subjected to “sexual harassment, molestation and assault,” by Whitaker, which led to “depression, humiliation and embarrassment” and his eventual suicide.
According to the Elko Daily Free Press, the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Reno on March 10 and alleges that the Elko County School District knew about teacher Tennille Whitaker’s sexual misconduct with students and yet failed to remove her.
Whitaker began grooming fourth grade students in the classroom where she taught, the lawsuit alleges. She’s also alleged to have had sex with two teen student aides during her “special” hour.
The lawsuit alleges that former principal Chris McAnany, who is also named as a defendant, was informed six times in a period of less than two years that Whitaker was having “unlawful sexual relations with minor students.” McAnany conducted an investigation in early 2016 after a custodial worker informed him of Whitaker’s behavior. Accusations against Whitaker from a parent and two teachers followed soon after. McAnany was even shown a photograph from social media that “evidenced Whitaker with a minor student.”
The Elko County Sheriff’s office informed the school district of an ongoing investigation into Whitaker’s conduct in October of 2016.
According to the lawsuit, Whitaker was allowed to continue teaching despite the district being aware of her “sexual propensities toward minor students.” The lawsuit also states that Whitaker was allowed to cover the only window in her classroom, in which she had set up a private “reading area” in the back corner that could not be seen from outside.
She was eventually arrested in June of 2017 and charged with four felony counts of sexual conduct between a school employee or volunteer and a pupil. “Nobody was really willing to testify or give a statement that said, ‘yes, this happened,” Superintendent Jeff Zander said during a press conference the day after Whitaker was arrested.
Whitaker, who is a mother to two children, was sentenced to serve the maximum 20 years in prison after being convicted of having sex with four minors. She is also required to register as a sex offender.
Whitaker’s case highlights a debate that has emerged around a purported double-standard in how society reacts to incidents of teachers having sex with underage students when the perpetrator is a woman and the victim is a young boy.
Writing for Salon in June of 2008, Carol Lloyd suggested the double-standard of student-teacher sex may have to do with “how the power imbalance between men and women may influence the way society regards statutory rapists.”
A study published in the Journal of Social Psychology in 2011 tested the theory that “male teachers are judged more harshly than female teachers for engaging in heterosexual intercourse with a student” and found that “a reverse sexual double standard was revealed, in which participants judged situations involving male teachers more harshly than they judged situations involving female teachers, but only when the sexual contact was teacher-initiated.”