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Published: Monday, 4/24/2006

Crime and punishment

No teacher, male or female, who engages in sexual conduct with a student, consensual or coerced, should be treated with any leniency by the judicial system.

In a recent case involving a Scott High School teacher convicted of having sex with a student, a sentence of probation is possible. But conduct so reprehensible deserves more than probation.

John "Mitch" Balonek was found guilty of one count of sexual battery. He entered a plea of no contest to the third-degree felony.

The conviction could result in a one-to-five-year prison term, but jail time is not mandatory, and the 48-year-old could avoid any incarceration at all.

That would send the wrong message to the community about the gravity of the offense committed by the English teacher. Whatever the circumstances of the sexual relationship between Balonek and the then 16-year-old female student, the fact that it occurred at all is outrageous.

An adult in a position of power and influence over highly impressionable youngsters has no business using that leverage to his or her advantage and gratification, sexual or otherwise.

A student who looks up to a teacher does not enter an intimate relationship equipped with the commensurate maturity of an adult. Teenagers can be easily led and manipulated by unscrupulous authority figures.

The Scott High School staffer, who was also an unsuccessful Toledo City Council candidate last year, stepped far over the line with a young girl he taught.

She is a victim of abuse inflicted by a man three times her age whom Toledo parents and guardians had entrusted with their children since 1992.

While students may always encounter some bad influences in school, they should at least be safe with a teacher.

Balonek deserves no mercy from the court. Jail time, not probation, is the sentence that fits his crime.

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