IT’S A STORY we think we know. A girl — a young girl — falls hard in love. The man — a much older man, in a position of authority, with responsibility for her — has tripped her up. He uses her. It is ugly. It’s an old, old story. In its classic form, the man will get his just punishment, and the girl will be saved a life of humiliation. She is a victim.
It has happened once again. Though, like so many things in this day and age, it’s more complicated than it first appears. The story before us takes place in the beautiful Colonial farmland turned pricey oasis of developments near Newtown in Bucks County — where there was a young girl, and a much older man in a position of authority, and for four months they had a torrid love affair.
Robert Hawkins was Council Rock South’s most popular teacher — or at least, without doubt, the best and most popular math teacher, revered for making numbers interesting, for his dedication, for his willingness to go the extra tutoring session with any student. Both boys and girls got close to him. They would come to him, do math with him, talk to him, confess their lives to him. Especially the girls. He was 42 years old, unmarried, and a bit fat.
The girl loved math, and she may have been his best student. She stayed after school to study with him. She went to Princeton with him and other teachers for a regular Saturday math symposium. She painted a math map on one of his classroom’s desks. But she wasn’t a geek — far from it. Jane Kenton (not her real name) was beautiful, and shapely, and she was proud of it. She had a large circle of smart friends. She applied to Ivy League schools. She came from money. She was 17 years old, and on her way to whatever she wanted.
Beginning in early December of 2008, almost midway into her senior year, Jane often pulled her brand-new Honda out of the upper student lot — the honors lot — after school, and headed left toward Route 332 instead of making a right toward home; she was on her way to Newtown, to Mr. Hawkins’s place, just off Route 413 in a little enclave of townhouses.
Where they once smoked dope from a hookah — both the drug and the pipe supplied by her, according to a police report filed in the Hawkins criminal case. Where they met three or four times a week for four months, and almost every time had intercourse. Where, at some point, they started telling each other they were in love.