This story is honestly so ridiculous and intriguing and wonderful in all the wrong ways. There were other important things that happened on my birthday( Feb. 6th): Ronald Reagan’s birthday, Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, Of Mice and Men was published, Reagan introduced his Reagan Doctrine (blegghhh); however, I wanted to go for the most gruesome and alarming story I could find. I chose to research the intensely appalling scandal surrounding this lady named Mark Kay Letourneau, although the Reagan stuff did put up a good fight.
Mary Kay Letourneau (nee Schmitz) grew up in a strict catholic family in California. Her father was a successful conservative professor and politician who even became the American Independent Party presidential candidate in 1972. Following in the same trend, her mother was a homemaker who strongly advocated against the Equal Rights Amendment. Despite her conservative Christian upbringing, Letourneau was anything but a saint.
While studying at Arizona State University, she became pregnant with Steve Letourneau’s child. The couple moved to the Seattle area and she began teaching at a local school. For many students, parents, and colleagues, Letourneau was the epitome of a great teacher; for one student, the epitome of sexual confusion. In 1996, twelve year old student, Vili Fualauu, began seeing the 34 year old married Mary Kay Letourneau romantically. Her husband did not become aware of the relationship until 1997, and later a family member whom he had confided in reported the relationship to Child Protective Services. Mary Kay Letourneau was arrested on charges of second-degree child rape but was free on bail until she gave birth to the baby conceived between her and Fualauu. Although she later pleaded guilty to the charges, she claimed that the relationship was consensual in nature and that she and Fualauu were in love. The judge sentenced her to seven and a half years in prison but considering Letourneau’s diagnosis with Bipolar disorder and Fualauu’s mother’s pleas, the judge suspended all but six months of the sentence.
Only one month after being released from prison and becoming a registered sex offender prohibited from contact with Fualauu, Letourneau was found steaming up the windows of a car again with him. On my exact birthday, February 6th, 1998, she stood in front of the court for the second time bearing many of the features of her first appearance–pregnant( again), smug, and unashamed–and was sentenced to serve the remaining seven years of her original sentence. She gave birth to Fualauu’s second child in October 1998 while in prison.
Although, Fualauu’s family once tried to sue Letourneau prior to her release and argued that they needed money to support her babies, they eventually lost because there was evidence that the relationship was consensual between the two love birds.After being released seven years later, Fualauu’s family overturned the order for Letourneau to remain separate from Vili and the couple was married soon after. I guess they ended up living happily ever after, but the whole thing Is pretty weird and brings up a lot of ethical questions.
All of the positive publicity this story brought begs the question: is this type of rape okay? What draws the line between okay and not okay? Should they have let her get the lighter sentence initially?
There’s too much thought required to answer all of those questions on a school night, but at least it was an interesting read.