TV falsely portrays student-teacher relationship

TV falsely portrays student-teacher relationship

Pretty Little Liars features a 16 year old who dates her English teacher.

By By: Danielle Kiefer, Staff Writer

Ask any female who watches television, and she’ll tell you that the best dramas involve some sort of romance. Forbidden love adds even more interest to the storyline, but television writers have taken this one step too far. Recently, teachers dating their students have appeared as common relationships on TV shows, especially ones with a target audience of teenagers and young adults. This sends a bad message, particularly to young women, by normalizing these inappropriate and illegal relationships.

On Pretty Little Liars, 16-year old Aria Montgomery (Lucy Hale) becomes secretly involved with her English teacher after meeting him in a bar over the summer. Similar relationships have occurred on other popular shows including Degrassi, Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill.

Aria’s relationship with her teacher, Ezra Fitz, is portrayed in a positive light, making the idea of dating a teacher seem not only normal, but also romantic and sexy, leading young viewers to think student-teacher dating is acceptable.
TV networks do not have much to say to justify the inappropriate message they are sending to teens; some of them even seem to be rooting for the relationships.

According to a May 2011 TV Guide article, Ian Harding, (Ezra Fitz, Pretty Little Liars), thinks that his character and Aria are soul mates and that makes their relationship okay.

Many cases of teachers charged with having sexual relations with students have appeared in the media lately.
According to a February 2012 Washington Post article, a Julius West teacher and Richard Montgomery coach was charged with having sex with his 16-year old student and is currently on administrative leave.

Hearing about these, combined with seeing a beloved character on a favorite TV show dating their teacher, makes a teenager start to think that teacher-student relationships are everywhere, are normal, and may even be happening at their school.

Shows like Pretty Little Liars fail to mention the inappropriateness and problems of teacher-student relationships. A teacher dating his or her student is not only illegal but also conflict of interest and abuse of power because teachers hold a position of power and trust over their pupils, similar to why it is unethical for a boss to date his or her employee.

Although recent media coverage can explain the popularity of teacher-student relationships on TV, this is no excuse for sending a horrible message to impressionable teenagers. Either television shows need to start showing some realistic aspects of these dangerous relationships, or, better yet, cut them out of plot lines all together. Otherwise, desperate high schoolers may start thinking of their favorite teacher as a possible homecoming date.