January 27, 2017 (Fault Lines) – It’s hard to believe that, all of a sudden, there is a rash of teacher-student sex romps. There are a lot more stories in the news these days about taking “hot for teacher” to the literal level. But like cop shootings, this is probably more a function of cell phones than a newfound epidemic. In the world of cell phone videos and text messaging, it is a whole lot easier to get busted doing stupid stuff than it used to be.
Texas teacher Thao Doan is the latest teacher to find herself in a jam over an affair with a student.
Thao “Sandy” Doan, a 27-year-old teacher at Raul Quintanilla Sr. Middle School, was arrested last week and faces a sexual assault charge because of the alleged relationship. The boy is a former Quintanilla Middle School student, Dallas ISD police wrote in Doan’s arrest warrant affidavit.
Teachers are not supposed to have sex with students. That’s pretty well-settled. But this case has a twist. The “victim” seems a little savvier than the normal poor middle-schooler victimized by his manipulative sex-fiend teacher.
Back in 2015, Doan started talking to the boy by text message, Instagram, and an app called Kik. They met that summer at a park and had sex. Doan then had sex with the boy a few more times later that year.
Rather than being traumatized by the horror of sex with a teacher, the teenage boy saw an opportunity. Showing off his entrepreneurial skills, he figured out how to profit from the situation.
In January 2016, [Doan] said, someone she didn’t know contacted her and threatened to tell police about the relationship if she didn’t give him money. She said she continued to get calls from different numbers about different drop-off places for the payments.
The money would be the downfall of both the student and the teacher. Doan ultimately paid the kid in the neighborhood of $28,000. He then “reinvested” the money, which led his mother to turn Doan in.
Earlier this month, the boy’s mom reported that he was getting from Doan “large amounts of money” he was using for “illegal purposes” and causing problems at home, the affidavit states.
After his mother noticed all the money, she found suggestive texts on his phone and called the authorities. Doan admitted she had sex with the boy on the occasions in 2015 and then again in December of 2016. Apparently the illicit sex was so good she was willing to risk not only criminal charges, but the continued blackmail.
The moral of this story is somewhat complicated. But it demonstrates an important lesson. Nothing is as simple as it seems when crime is involved.
If you are a victim’s advocate, the teacher is a rapist. 14 is too young to consent in the eyes of the law, so this is no different than jumping out of the bushes with a mask and duct tape. If you are a cynic, the student just lived out what most teenage boys dream about. The teacher’s prosecution isn’t going to accomplish much.
If you are a rational person, the whole case demonstrates why the law is such an imperfect vehicle for solving our problems. Having sex with a 14-year-old is definitely stupid. Leaving a nice paper trail of text messages and Instagrams for the police is even stupider. Getting blackmailed and then going back to do the very thing that got you blackmailed is the stupidest of all of these decisions.
But on the other hand, this “victim” doesn’t seem like much of a victim. Statutory rape laws are in place to protect children. The law seems to think a child is incapable of making a good decision about sex. And the law is probably right. Most kids are simply not mature enough to handle sexual relationships.
But this kid sounds a little different. He is no babe in the woods, having already made good use of his short time here on Earth.
The boy’s mother told KDFW-TV (Channel 4) this week that he has been in and out of the juvenile system on burglary and robbery charges. The mother told the station she knows her son was wrong but she believes Doan should have known better as the adult in the scenario.
Blackmailing his teacher for $28,000 was pretty slick. The kid seems like quite the budding criminal. The law Doan is being prosecuted under is meant for the kid’s protection. But it sounds like society needs protection from him as well.
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Not that I’m in the remote-diagnosis business, but… I’d say sociopath. Great article, Josh.
The law seems to think a child is incapable of making a good decision about sex. And the law is probably right. Most kids are simply not mature enough to handle sexual relationships.
Are the laws on charging as an adult also in place because the child is thought to be incapable of making good decisions (about blackmail and a host of other crimes)?
Kids always have and always will do all sorts of stupid things. Good (or even decent) parents are supposed to be on the lookout to make sure they navigate through life as well as possible. Even those that are in loco parentis have some responsibility not to throw gas on the fire.
Maybe when he’s “of age”, he’d understand the consequences and why this was a bone-headed move, but it’s yet to be seen if society will need protection from this kid.
Or to quote a wise man, “[t]here’s a reason why teenagers behave differently from the rest of us: their brains are different. They’re impulsive and underestimate risk because their prefrontal cortices are underdeveloped, and they’re bad at prioritizing long-term gains over immediate gratification because their axons aren’t sheathed in myelin.”
Heh. Yeah, that’s a very good point. The comparison’s better than you may have guessed, because there’s evidence that psychopathy’s tied to prefrontal cortical dysfunction. Impulsivity, taking needless risks etc. are characteristic of psychopaths as well as teens; the big difference is that normal kids have an excellent prognosis, while psychopaths may never get better!
I’m just struck by how many of the classic psychopathic “tells” Josh’s kid has. Early promiscuity, a record of petty crime, manipulativeness. Just a guess.
I keep forgetting you don’t have kids. For what it’s worth, every five year old seems to be a psychopath. Good luck!
Please stop saying this. We suspect there is a link between changes in PFC during early adulthood and behavior, but we do not know this. This is a new pop psychology.
You know something that is different between a teenager and a 30 year old? How much life experience they have had.
Hi. Here’s one of the most famous and frequently-cited papers ever on the subject: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC419576/
TL;dr: the sequence of cortical maturation in adolescents is documented; it’s found to map to milestones in cognitive and functional development; and the functions that develop around these milestones are in turn associated with the parts of the brain that mature at the same time.
PS: You’ll note that this is a paper by medical doctors, not social scientists. That’s because this is neurology, a hard science, not psychology, whether “pop” or no.
I encourage people to read about technical fields and talk about them, so please try and understand that I am not telling you to not even try to understand these subjects. I am trying to tell you that the idea we know that these changes are responsible is a recent incarnation of pop psychology.
Yes, I was recently awarded my PhD in neuroscience, I have had conversations with at least one of the authors of that paper (maybe others, but I am terrible about remembering names) and one of my first author publications and part of my dissertation were about linking changes in behavior in response to drugs in adolescents and adults to changes in the composition of neurotransmitter receptors in the brain between adolescence and adulthood. I think I have a pretty deep understanding of the problems in linking changes in anatomy and physiology to changes in behavior and other phenotypes (at least I have a formal certification that says I do). I am telling you: we don’t know what role PFC development plays in the behavior changes. PFC development is an excellent candidate for contribution to risk/reward assessment, but we have not come close to establishing for certain that it even has a small role in it.
The authors like to use the word “maturation” which I understand. I used it a lot. It is a lovely word with just the correct combination of ambiguity and specificity to describe changes in brain physiology over time to convey meaning without anyone being able to tell you that you are wrong. English is a wonderfully unnewspeak language like that. I suspect y’all attorneys understand that nuances of choosing exactly the right word for rhetoric than I do.
Not for nothing, and it’s a beautiful comment you made there, but do you have a link? I understand if you don’t want to break anon.
That sounded incredibly sarcastic, didn’t it? My bad. I’d be sincerely interested in a link.
I could not reply to your replies. The paper in question is not open access, but I can link the PubMed abstract, for what it is worth:
Perhaps the kid should be prosecured for the blackmail.
But the teacher should still have to deal with the stat rape charges.
There’s a new case of a teacher (usually a female) being charged for sex with a minor student so often I dare say it’s a weekly occurrence. It’s not rare. It’s not uncommon. The very little research and data on the topic was referenced in a CBS news – 48 hours mystery episode titled ‘Kirsten’s secret’ where CBS estimates these cases to be 10% of the teacher population. Do the math, that’s a LOT of cases.
The ‘child’ in this case is a criminal. He will likely be a criminal even after his frontal cortex is fully developed as he’s living in a society which rewards bad behavior and makes excuses for him.