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Are Sexual Relationships Between Students and Teachers Ever OK?

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," June 28, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Is it ever OK morally or legally for a teacher to have sex with his or her student?

Let's bring in the legal panel. Joining us from San Francisco is former Assistant D.A. Jim Hammer, in Los Angeles U.S.C. Law Professor Susan Estrich and here in D.C. criminal defense attorneys Bernie Grimm and Ted Williams.

And before we get to the first question, we've got the e-mails pouring in.

Christopher Cole from Tennessee says it's not fair, women should be sentenced to the same stiff penalties as men when found guilty of having sex with students. I'm sick of the double standard. Women have wanted equal treatment for decades. I'm for equal treatment in all circumstances. All these teachers are predators and should be dealt with harshly.

All right. Susan, let me go to you. Purposely I booked you to back me up tonight because these gentlemen have been giving me a hard time. So the fix is in and I'm going to you first. What about this? What about this sobbing teacher in Wisconsin?

SUSAN ESTRICH, USC LAW PROFESSOR: Forget the tears. I'm with the viewer, you know. I agree, no double standard.

But that doesn't mean the men should get off. I mean, this guy took advantage of a former sixth grade student of his. And from what I read in the reports, here was a girl who was having trouble at home, a former student of his, a 14-year-old.

He was making threats. I'm with the judge on this one. He can cry from now until next Tuesday. I say throw the book at him and throw the book at the women who do the same thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: And Virginia Williams has e-mailed — she says Greta, teachers should all go to jail including pretty dumb blondes or they should all be released — Bernie?

BERNIE GRIMM, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, so that means attractive smart blondes get off? So I don't know. I mean not to be sexist about it, but Susan looks — Ted as you would agree — nothing short of vivacious in that black dress with those pearls that I sent to her yesterday.

But she's not agreeing with me. There is no one answer here. Teachers have sex with students. It's a special protected relationship, Greta. We are all in agreement on that.

VAN SUSTEREN: You're coming around to my side on this? That's because he went home and talked to his wife, Stephanie.

GRIMM: Right, I got my head kicked in.

But at any rate, all teachers should go to jail; all teachers shouldn't go to jail. This is different than the one we did last week. The teacher was 23, student was 18. Different than Deborah LaFavre, the victims wouldn't come forward.

This is a student that's 14 and a defendant who the judge said was sick. He's obviously on the fringes or has the symptoms of being a pedophiliac — they are incurable. For me that's different, 15 years for me wasn't even enough.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so you're making this decision, you're going to decide which one comes in like Deborah LaFavre, you know, might not be someone who you think is a pedophile but this one is. And Bernie Grimm makes those decisions?

GRIMM: You asked me my opinion. That's why I'm on the show. That's why I get paid a couple million dollars a year.

TED WILLIAMS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Let's be very candid. Bernie is absolutely right. Let me just make sure we're clear here.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not sure that's being candid.

WILLIAMS: This is not a double standard. The fact about it is, you have got a 14-year-old child and a 16-year-old child. Those people, as far as I am concerned, are not closer to the age of majority. And they are vulnerable. And under the circumstances, yes, 15 years is a light sentence for this guy.

Now, let me say this. If this was an 18-year-old and a 29-year-old, my position would still be the same that the person should not go to jail. But under these circumstances, put him under the jail.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jim?

JIM HAMMER, FORMER SAN FRANCISCO ASST. DA: Ditto. I think this guy is a child predator, a sexual molester and should go to prison for a long, long time.

If anything started this trend Greta, or gave fuel to it, it was as the viewers said, giving an easy treatment to the pretty girl on the motorcycle. The woman teacher, she should have been punished harshly and letting her off with probation at the time was outrageous.

I'm glad she's gone back for sentencing again. Everybody should get treated the same regardless of their gender.

VAN SUSTEREN: And here's a woman who's obviously very astute. Barbara Clark, she says Greta, yes, yes, yes, it is a double standard. Young attractive female teachers get off, the males get the book thrown at them. I'm with you and Susan Estrich on this one. Have a great evening. Obviously, Barbara is very smart, Barbara Clark, Woodlands, Texas.

Now on a serious note.

HAMMER: We all agree Greta!

VAN SUSTEREN: On a serious note, what do we do about the fact that there's a double standard — Susan?

ESTRICH: The way to deal with the double standard is not to let the guys off. What we need to do is set the standard in a case like this one and then the next time the pretty blonde comes along, remember that 15 years is what we need to give. But we can't listen to these tears.

WILLIAMS: The problem we have is there is just no uniformity in sentencing. In Florida, you may get one sentence and in Wisconsin, and by the way, this happened in Appleton, Wisconsin. Do you all know who is from Appleton, Wisconsin?

ESTRICH: I know who!

WILLIAMS: One guess. It's one Greta Van Susteren from Appleton, Wisconsin.

VAN SUSTEREN: Willem Dafoe is from Appleton, Wisconsin, and Rocky Bleier who played for the Steelers.

One other note before I call a close to this — is that you know we already have another one of these stories for tomorrow night. And that really is the real tragedy is why are we getting so many teachers and student sex stories? But anyway, we'll have that for tomorrow night.

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