Schoolgirl Crush

He was a popular teacher at Council Rock South — renowned for his dedication to his students. She was a high-school senior — pretty, smart, and going places. At a time when the divide between child and adult is harder and harder to find, was their next step nearly inevitable?

There were students — perhaps half a dozen — and at least a few of Hawkins’s colleagues who were aware that something was going on. Two Council Rock teachers have lost their jobs and a third resigned over what they knew and kept silent about, and there are strong suspicions that many more teachers were in on the affair — a high–ranking law enforcement officer involved in the case says there is an ongoing “conspiracy of silence” among the teachers.

For four months, no one told. Everyone kept it quiet. Which wasn’t easy. Jane’s best friend knew from the beginning. She was fairly bursting with the affair of her friend, holding it (mostly) to herself, like an egg you have to carry around as if it’s a baby.

But then at the end of March, the best friend brought a new student, another friend, into the loop of knowing. And she couldn’t keep it to herself. Something had to be done. She went to school authorities, and then it was over. By early April, Hawkins was gone from Council Rock, as news of the affair raced through the school community.

Robert Hawkins is a criminal. In November he pleaded guilty to one count of endangering the welfare of children, a felony, and one count of corrupting minors, a misdemeanor. He was sentenced on March 10th to 11 and a half to 23 months in county prison, a sentence that the judge said he would consider adjusting if Hawkins came forward within 10 days with more Council Rock teachers who knew about the affair but kept silent. Jane Kenton is a victim. The classic story, which is true enough. But that’s not the whole story — far from it.

The milieu of money and privilege and academic success that is Newtown and Council Rock has a way of complicating a story. It’s a school where the best teachers can get very close to students on their way to top colleges, as the staff apparently keeps its collective mouth shut about what a certain colleague might really be after.

The story of a young girl tripped up by a much older man in a position of authority, someone supposedly watching out for her, has changed. In fact, the wonder is that there aren’t more teachers and students falling off the ledge of restraint or morality, straight into each other’s arms. Because an affair like the one between Robert Hawkins and Jane Kenton is no longer unlikely. It really appears to be, in fact, a lot closer to inevitable. It is bound to happen. Once you take a hard look at the world of high school, up in Bucks County.

AT FIRST, JANE lied to the police. When they wanted to know why girls at Council Rock had finally come forward, and were saying she was romantically involved with Mr. Hawkins, she said girls knew she had a crush on him. She said that girls like drama, and that girls exaggerate.

The jig was up, however. Three months later, in early summer, as police pursued the criminal case against Hawkins, she was more forthcoming, and admitted her romantic involvement with him. Not publicly, of course — since last summer, the curtains have been drawn in Newtown. But some people with knowledge of the case will talk about it, and the story is told in police officers’ reports of their many interviews with Jane, her friends and her teachers — reports that became part of the public court file.

Jane Kenton met Robert Hawkins as a sophomore, when he taught her geometry, and developed a crush on him. She didn’t have him as a junior, but as a senior she signed up for his AP statistics class.

Hawkins commanded a classroom; it was his territory. He might veer off and talk about something besides math — philosophy, say, or music; he played guitar, and once spent half a period riveting the stat class on what music he was into. He gave off an aura — he’d seen the world, he knew about everything.

Jane … well, Jane was, says Adam Ali, who sat in front of her in stat class and had known her since the fourth grade, “a typical rich girl. She was nice and all. She wasn’t snobby, but she thought she was really special.” The only problem was that she was really pretty normal. You couldn’t distinguish her from the other girls: “She didn’t do anything to stick out.”

Except — math. She had math in her corner. She talked a lot in class, because she could connect with Bob Hawkins, in a way that took her beyond the other kids — “She and Mr. Hawkins were talking on a different level, not student to teacher,” Ali remembers. Through math … 

Jane told police that a few weeks into her senior year, she started staying after school for math clinic, to get extra help. She and Hawkins realized that they both had Eagles tickets — she went to a Sunday-night game in November, and they texted each other; their seats were close together. Jane took her father over to meet Hawkins. After that, they started talking on the phone. Jane told him about her ex–boyfriend, now off at college.

They began talking more often. They started texting each other at school.

The attraction between them was growing; they researched the age of consent for having sex in Pennsylvania — 16. In mid-December, Jane went out to dinner with her parents; afterward, she called Hawkins. He gave her directions to his home: a townhouse with steps to a second floor, where there was a small kitchen. Almost all of his condo was painted white. He had a navy blue couch in the living room. It was broken. He had a large-screen TV in the living room. In the bedroom, there was a large bed; she wasn’t positive, but thought it was a king-size. They had oral sex that night.