The case was shocking, scandalous yet oddly familiar. Debra Lafave, 25, a stunning blond schoolteacher, faced charges in two Florida counties in connection with a sexual relationship she had with one of her students, a boy of just 14. Investigators said she had had sex with the boy in her classroom, at her home and in the back of her SUV. Last month charges were dropped in Marion County, where the SUV incident is said to have occurred, because the boy's family did not want him dragged through a tawdry trial. They had worked out a plea agreement in Hillsborough County that sentences Lafave to three years of house arrest, seven years of probation and lifetime registration as a sex offender who cannot work with or near children. "We only hope, in the next few weeks, Debbie will fade to a footnote," her lawyer, John Fitzgibbons, told the Tampa Tribune.
But there are so many such footnotes:
> MARCH 2006, WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.: In a plea agreement, music teacher Carol Flannigan, 51, began serving a five-year prison sentence (to be followed by 10 years of sex-offender probation) for lewd and lascivious molestation of a student that began when the boy was 11. The relationship lasted 19 months, say police.
> JANUARY 2006, SANTA ANA, CALIF.: English teacher Sarah Bench-Salorio, 29, was sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to 29 counts of lewd conduct (sex with three boys--two of her former students and one of their friends--ages 11 to 13).
> SEPTEMBER 2005, WORCESTER, MASS.: Amber Jennings, 32, pleaded guilty to disseminating harmful materials to a minor (e-mails and nude photos and videos of herself and the teen) and was sentenced to two years' probation. A charge of sex with a minor was dropped. Jennings was the boy's freshman-English teacher; the two later became involved in a six-month sexual relationship that ended when he was 16.
> AUGUST 2005, MCMINNVILLE, TENN.: Elementary-school phys-ed teacher Pamela Rogers, 28--another bombshell blond--received a nine-month jail sentence in a plea deal, plus eight years' probation, for four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure. She had a 2 1/2-month relationship with a student, 13.
All those follow the most notorious teacher-student sex case in recent memory: that of Mary K. Letourneau. In 1996 the married elementary-school teacher and mother of four, 34, conceived a child with her former student, Vili Fualaau, then 13. Her marriage ended, and she was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison for child rape; a sympathetic judge knocked down the penalty to six months. Once released, she resumed the affair, got pregnant again and was returned to prison to serve the remainder of her 7 1/2 years. Released in 2004, she picked up where she left off with Fualaau, by then 21. Less than a year later, with their two young daughters as flower girls, the unlikely couple exchanged wedding vows in a lavish ceremony at a Washington State winery.