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?

Which in turn complicates our judgment of the silence of Council Rock’s staff, despite Hawkins’s signals that he was overly interested in female students. J.D. Salinger’s recent death served to remind us that a long time ago, in certain school districts around the country, teachers were fired for teaching Catcher in the Rye — it’s easy to forget just how radically the social landscape has shifted. A high-school staff is part of the current culture as much as the student body is, of course, and a teacher with a history of going out of his way to help students, both boys and girls, a teacher who clearly does care, might get a pass on occasionally walking down the hall as if he thinks he’s a bit player in Entourage. Because that is the world we live in now.

SOME THINGS ABOUT high school don’t change. Jane Kenton’s peers — meaning her former classmates at Council Rock — don’t think she’s a victim. Some of them had a party to watch Superintendent Klein’s statement to the community on local TV on the eve of a new school year last September, after Robert Hawkins had been arrested.

Klein apologized to Jane. He apologized to her family. What happened shouldn’t have happened to her.

What? They were enraged, this group of students who know her. Jane a victim? Hardly. She knew what she was doing. She knew what she was getting into.

Before Facebook changed its rules of engagement a couple months ago, Jane had posted some 2,300 pictures open to anyone’s perusal. Her senior year of high school looks normal, for a 17-year-old girl of some means. Trips abroad and to California. Parties, a multitude of group shots with friends, Jane invariably with an exaggerated smile. There she is on senior trip in March, holding hands with her best friend, wandering in the ultimate childland, Disney World, wearing Thing 1 (Jane, the leader) and Thing 2 t-shirts. Robert Hawkins was along as a chaperone; Jane kept her Disney World roommates up nights texting him. And there she is at a friend’s birthday party, pictured with two other girls, her eyes closed, her tongue hanging out. A dildo is posed before them.  

It’s a joke, of course. It’s not dirty.

But it is jarring to see that picture, in light of her affair with Robert Hawkins. It’s as if Jane thinks she’s living a fantasy as unreal as Mickey Mouse — so what does it matter who’s taking a look?

In the courthouse in Doylestown are missives between Hawkins and Jane, a sprinkling from May through July. After the bombshell of their affair hit, in early April, they still saw each other on the sly, and both of them were still trying to believe.