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Originally published Thursday, July 15, 2010 at 3:18 PM

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Serious consequences for teachers having sex with students

A former Seattle Public Schools teacher should face serious consequences for having sex with a 17-year-old student. District officials and parents must help ward against teachers who prey on students.

A SEATTLE Public Schools parent reading text messages on her daughter's cellphone led authorities to uncover the fact that a teacher had sex with a student.

It is a crime for a teacher, a person in a position of power over students, to have sexual relations with someone under age 18.

The teacher, Taryn Fairbanks, abruptly resigned from Garfield High School last month and moved to Las Vegas, Nev. Seattle police plan to bring Fairbanks back to face charges related to sexual misconduct with a 17-year-old Garfield student.

Police are trying to determine if Fairbanks had inappropriate contact with other students.

Apparently Garfield students knew, including the one whose text messages were read by her mother. This is not a call for parents to invade their children's privacy, but parents and school officials must put their ears closer to the ground to learn what students, and teachers, are doing.

Fairbanks is a former language-arts teacher and adviser to the student newspaper. She allegedly had sex with the student in June during a party at his home while his parents were out of town.

Fairbanks talked about the sex act with police, telling them she has "an issue with alcohol" and was "in the midst of an alcohol relapse at the time of the incident." A 19-year-old former Garfield student has also admitted a "one-night connection" with Fairbanks.

The extent of this teacher's illegal and unethical behavior must be learned. Only then can the district assert whether current policies and training around inappropriate teacher and student conduct is enough or more serious steps are warranted.

Protecting students against predator teachers requires vigilance.

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