i Editor's Letter: Young and impressionable children


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The Independent Online


Thank you to those kind readers who wrote in with advice about my man flu. I can't believe that not one of you even mocked me, which just shows that I've spent far too much time in the company of journalists. Half the women in the i office now have the bug, but obviously as there's no such thing as "woman flu", they are just getting on with it.

During my lie down, I waded through i's inbox (i@independent.co.uk for new readers picking us up in Starbucks today. And, welcome!). With all due respect, I could not believe what I was reading.

What puzzled me was just how many of you wrote in to ask what's the big deal about the teacher and the 15-year-old girl − is it just that she is so young? To which, the it's-so-obvious-why-do-I-need-to-write-it answer is: yes! If a child is 15 and there is no "lawful authority" or "reasonable excuse" for her to be away with an adult who is not a parent, then it is abduction, and we should all be worried about it. Millions entrust our children each day to the hands of teachers who act in loco parentis. You don't have to be the father of a 15-year-old to expect that teachers (a group I regularly defend) can rise above their own feelings and respect absolutely the special trust placed in them. The huge majority of them do, daily.

All over the country I am sure that gossiping schoolgirls, like my own and their friends, have been recoiling in horror at the idea of running away with their maths teacher − or any other! But, we all know it can, and does, happen, because however cocky, streetwise and sophisticated they appear, they are still − cliché or not − young and impressionable children.

The law is there for the unimpeachable purpose of protecting them, both from themselves and from anyone who would prey upon their naivety. And surely that, in a nutshell, is why it's such a big deal.