Parents: would you let her teach YOUR kids?

April 29, 2015

 Was there ever as crazy a “love affair” as that between teacher Mary Jo Letourneau and her now husband, Vili Fualaau?  She met him when he was a second grader and by the time he was 12 and she 34, was sleeping with him. Which is mind-bloggling on so many levels.

And in love with him, she says. Who falls in love with a sixth grader? Maybe another sixth grader. But an adult? That was in 1996. But then their relationship was discovered and the whole thing blew up in a public way. She pleaded guilty to two counts of felony second degree rape of a child, went to prison, had two daughters with her boy-lover (one while she was in prison) and is now married to him.  She’s still a registered sex offender, of course.

Now, she’s 53. He is 31. Their girls are teenagers. Very cute and sweet. All appeared on a Barbara Walters special a few weeks ago and of course, I watched.

My thoughts were jumbled. It was absolutely nuts for this adult teacher to have an affair–and one she claimed was a LOVE affair, no less–with a 12-year-old.  But the relationship has, so far, stood the test of time. Since they’ve been married almost 10 years, I had to ask myself this question:

What's the harm now_They’re married, I thought, as I sat down to watch the show. Maybe this was some anomalous love affair. Can we let all that other stuff rest in the past?

That was how I started watching the show.

But instantly, I grew uncomfortable with what I was seeing. And hearing.

The now-married couple sat without touching in front of Barbara. That was the first thing I noticed–they were physically disconnected in an obvious way. No signs of affection. No subtle touching. The relationship seemed strained.

Mary Jo was giddy and girlish. She had her man. The facts of the case–he was 12, she was a teacher entrusted with the care of children, including him–didn’t seem to register with her. She appeared to almost enjoy her notoriety, admitting that the two had even hosted a “Hot For Teacher Night” at a local club. I raised my eyebrows. Seriously?

She talked about wanting to get her teaching career back. What?? Is there a parent alive who would let her teach their kid?

Vili seemed–depressed. He didn’t mention his love for her and the only time a smile crossed his face was when he was talking about or with his daughters.  When he did speak, and it was very little, he sounded mature, but sad.  He didn’t seem particularly happy about being interviewed, nor did he have anything much to say about the early part of their relationship.  But here’s what he said he advises his daughters:

“A relationship could lead to something that you think you wanted back then. You don’t really want it, maybe, years later.”

And this:

“I don’t support younger kids being married or having a relationship with someone older. I don’t support it.”

This was hardly an endorsement of their relationship. It said volumes.

As I watched Barbara Walters lob slow balls at the couple, I was again reminded that her time has come and gone. There were at least half a dozen opportunities for her to ask tough questions, such as:

Don’t you think you’re making light of a serious situation by holding a Hot For Teacher Night?
How is it you think you deserve to be removed from the sex offender registry?
What parents would want you to teach their child?
Vili, is your advice to your daughter a reflection of your marriage? So have you been happy? Are you happy now?

She asked none of them and never followed up on Vili’s intriguing comments about his advice to his girls.

Mary Kay? She seemed delusional. Vili seemed depressed.   There was nothing romantic or interesting about their relationship.  Even after all they’d been through, the marriage didn’t seem to be healthy. While I started watching the show curious and open, nothing about this situation was worthy of respect, except that they have raised two seemingly happy girls. How this happened I have no idea.

Nothing in their case convinced me that this was a “special” situation, that Vili might have been an exceptionally mature 12-year old boy or that Mary Kay deserves to come off the sex offender registry and renew her teaching credential. If I were a parent, I wouldn’t want my kids anywhere near a school at which she taught. Especially since it is obvious that this relationship isn’t working.

Bottom line:

sex-with-teacherI’m interested in what you parents have to say about this.

38 comments on “Parents: would you let her teach YOUR kids?
  1. Susan says:

    Well said, Carol. I didn’t watch the program but it’s interesting you say Walters didn’t ask the hard questions. I guess it’s important to her when it fits her agenda.

  2. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    I just don’t understand what would go wrong inside a 34 year old’s brain that would make her find a TWELVE year old attractive. I am a little older than her and I don’t even find a 21 year old attractive. I prefer people my own age.

  3. Suzi T says:

    Firstly I’m a teacher. Secondly I teach high school. It is not unheard of for young teachers to fall for older students in high school. Often there is only a four year age difference. If that had been the situation I would feel more forgiving today even though every professional ethic had been crossed.
    But this is different. This is an adult taking full advantage of a child. This is child abuse at its worst. There is no hormonal 4 year age gap. There is a Grand Canyon between their ages.
    TOTALLY unforgivable and needs to be kept away from children.

  4. I have taught college for 30 years, and teacher-student romantic / sexual relationships are an abuse of power. Period. If I have the power to assign a grade, I need to keep the relationship 100% professional. I never even socialized with female students that I had a lot in common with. (Didn’t go to lunch with them, didn’t go to a yoga class with them. Didn’t have them babysit for me when my kids were little.) I taught many male students my same age when I was single, but I never even casually flirted with them. It was inappropriate. I had plenty of other avenues for dating. (And other avenues for female friendships, for getting babysitters.) I didn’t have to work my students to address my personal needs. And it’s even more abusive (exponentially so) when the student is a minor. No, she should not teach ever again. And she should remain on the sex offenders registry. She made a choice, and that choice has permanent consequences.

  5. Sandy says:

    I agree with you! Wrong on so many levels. I watched it, and also noticed that they seemed disconnected.

  6. Jeanine says:

    I probably sound nuts but she wouldn’t be alive if she had a serial relationship with my child. It’s disgusting, and she shouldn’t have ever been permitted out of prison. Nor should he have been allowed to visit. Blows my mind. I didn’t watch her interview nor do I care to but believe me, if any adult had a serial relationship with my minor…. Oh boy.

  7. Liv says:

    I have to wonder if any of Vili’s reluctance has to do with the way he views marriage vows and having children. Having his innocence taken from him at such an early age – maybe his views on marriage also haven’t matured. Or possibly he’s bound by religious covenants. Either way – I feel very sorry for this sad little family. I’m glad he gets some happiness from his daughters – and I hope that they grow up alright. I didn’t see the interview – did they say anything about her children from her previous marriage? They must all be adults now too.

  8. Barbara Walters is waaaay beyond retirement stage. She hasn’t done any serious reporting or interviewing in ages. She is old and frail and needs to REALLY retire, not pretend she is and come back again and again.
    Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for her trailblazing days and all she has done for women in that industry. Can’t take that away from her. But, she has stayed too long at the fair. I saw her at a taping of The View and was shocked at how tiny she really is. Now when she comes out they have to practically carry her. It’s sad. Why can’t people know when it is time to leave and not leave us with uncomfortable memories of someone we truly respected?
    As for MaryJo…she should still be in jail!

  9. Bravo Carol, I agree with almost everything you said. I do wonder, since this was the first time Vili agreed to be interviewed, if he didn’t have something to say about the questions he would be asked, meaning that some would off limits.

    I think the bottom line for me is this: We are all attracted to other people at one time or another in our lives and it is our choice whether or not to act on that attraction. She made the wrong choice because, as you said, it’s just wrong. What they are doing now, whether or not they are a happy family, or how long they’ve been married doesn’t change that.

  10. A new kind of ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ maybe?

  11. It’s unsettling to hear when a gap in age like this occurs, but what Suzi T. was saying brings up an interesting question though, is it still really wrong? Even if the teacher is 21, and the student is 18, does that break professional rules no matter what the age gap is?

    I was a 23 year Career Paramedic, it would be like me hitting on a female high school soccer player who is 18 and may have broke her ankle. There is a level of “ethics” that must exist no matter what the age or situation is.

    I am not a Parent, so I can’t comment as if it was my kid. But I can attest that I would not want to be around another Paramedic who might do the things I made in the comment above.

    Wrong. Just wrong. So what happens if she goes back to teaching, is she going to find another 12 year old, and possibly dump the one she has been with, if her psychological reasoning behind doing it in the first place has not been corrected or fixed, what’s to stop her from wanting to do it again?

  12. I as usual have so much to say about this! I watched it too and still felt as sick about it as I did in 1996. To me, he looked a survivor of some catastrophe almost like he was in shock or something or on some serious depression medication. I really felt sorry for the little boy who was taken advantage of by this pedophile. He was robbed of his childhood, his teenage years, his manhood of basically everything he could have ever become. She is just to delusional to even consider in my opinion she should still be locked up. It honestly makes me sick and there is nothing that she could ever say that could make me change my mind about her. Surely no one would even consider giving her want she wants.

  13. Jennifer says:

    I didn’t watch it but remember when she went to trial.
    It’s pretty black and white in my book.
    She’s a sexual predator and deviant who belongs in jail. She destroyed that young mans life.
    Pedophiles belong in jail. End of story.

  14. It’s mind boggling. She’s disgusting.

  15. amar naik says:

    i think this is not correct. She has disrespected the teaching profession and spoiled someones life. good to hear that she ended up behind bars.

  16. Angela says:

    It sounds like that poor boy is still her victim. It would seem that he would have been provided professional help, but that can only do so much. I would not want her, or anyone like her, around my boys. They do have good minds and the strength to say “no way”, but she can not be trusted.

  17. Angelica says:

    I was just reading about them earlier today. I can’t believe they’re still married. And no, probably wouldn’t be too happy that she’s around my kids but the good news is she won’t be teaching anymore!

  18. Britney says:

    I agree, bottom line its just wrong

  19. The whole thing makes me nauseous. And their poor kids are now at an age to think WTF? and be embarrassed. And disgusted. No wonder the guy is depressed. I was married young (far from THAT young) and there is SO much you miss out on. She was horrible to drag the young boy into her wackiness and steal from him a normal transition to adulthood. He was a child. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

  20. Lana says:

    This happened near where I live, so this was big, big news back when it all happened. I think she has many mental issues that don’t seem to have been addressed, and I think Vili has always been a victim. Just because he’s a grown man and has two children with her doesn’t change that. I feel so sorry for the kids too. And did the special mention her other “family”? She had a husband and four young children when she met Vili. They moved away from the area shortly after she went to jail, and I’ve always wondered what happened to those poor kids too. The fact that she thinks she should be allowed to teach again shows just how delusional she is.

  21. Diane says:

    I cannot express how horrified I am by this story. Can you imagine the outcry if it had been a male teacher with a female 12-year-old? The question uppermost in my mind is: Was this boy ever given a choice? After this adult chose him, did he simply feel like he had to go along with it because she was a ‘teacher’ and an ‘adult’. This is betrayal of trust and gross misuse of authority. The fact that she can glibly ignore all of the people she hurt by her actions says everything to me.

  22. Ugh, the whole thing is totally creepy. How can any adult fall in love with a 12 year old? Something is just wrong.

  23. M from The Stay-at-Home Life says:

    No way should she be teaching! This whole thing is sickening.

  24. Dana says:

    Well written. I wish people would just do the right thing.

  25. Carol Graham says:

    After reading your post and all the comments, along with following this case over the years, I agree 100% with you that this was wrong on every level.

    However, the question you posed was whether or not I would want her to teach my child.
    Personally I feel that there are a lot of teachers that should not be teaching my child for a variety of reasons. B U T

    I firmly believe that when we instill a high moral and ethical code in our children, they will make the right decisions. I also believe that communication with our teens is a must. This story, like every other story, is not one-sided.

    I remember when my kids were younger and other moms would comment how much they dreaded the impending teen age years. My response would be that I looked forward to them. The other day my daughter said the exact same thing is happening to her with her little boy and she is responding in like manner.

    Our children will be exposed to a lot of predators in their lifetimes. They need to be taught how to handle whatever confronts them.

  26. Carolann says:

    I didn’t see the interview but remember the story well. She is a sex offender – bottom line. I think what she did was disgusting and she deserved to be in jail. She is a predator. I feel badly for their children too, and yes of course…the victim as well.

  27. Jhoveleen says:

    This story seems like similar to the couples in love in one place I knew. Interesting though, but to some individuals it is really sickening.

  28. Honestly, I would be mortified! I just have a different set of values which makes it a lot more difficult for me to comprehend. I won’t judge, because it is not my place to. But I would certainly pray hard that situation does not happen to my kid.

  29. I don’t know how I missed this story but this is one of the reasons we will be homeschooling our children. I’m happy that they are happy and their girls are too but still not something I’m OK with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Follow Carol


Here you’ll find my blog, some of my essays, published writing, and my solo performances. There’s also a link to my Etsy shop for healing and grief tools offered through A Healing Spirit.


I love comments, so if something resonates with you in any way, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on my blog. Thank you for stopping by–oh, and why not subscribe so you don’t miss a single post?


Subscribe to my Blog

Receive notifications of my new blog posts directly to your email.