The disappearance of 15-year-old Megan Stammers and her 30-year-old school teacher has attracted the attention of the press for the last week. Thankfully, after much searching and numerous media appeals, they were discovered, safe and well, in France. Megan is now reunited with her family while her teacher has been arrested and is awaiting transfer to the UK. But, is this really the happy ending we have all been seeking?
TV personality, Anne Diamond was criticised last week when she referred to the story as a ‘so whatish’ story. She was questioning whether it was worthy of such media attention. But, did she have a point?
Unlike so many other missing person cases, Megan had not been abducted; she had effectively eloped with the man she thinks she loves and who seems to reciprocate those feelings. She was not in any obvious danger, and surveillance pictures of the couple, as they made their crossing on the ferry, show them holding hands.
Of course, he should have known better. As a married teacher, he had a professional duty of care to his pupils and should not have allowed himself to cross such a well defined line. However, as anyone who drops a teenage girl to school knows, they are no longer places of academic excellence, but instead, seem to be training grounds for wannabee celebrities. Hair colouring, mobiles, and makeup, have replaced the contents in bags that used to contain books and pens.
The school exchange visits of the past have been overtaken by trips to Los Angeles ( I have yet to fathom the educational benefit) and it appears that school authorities now have a lax attitude to early warnings of inapropriate behaviour by their staff.
That is not the fault of either Megan or her teacher, but it is a failing of our changing society.
Much has been made of the fifteen year age gap between the couple, but hardly a day passes without a media story of a celeb dating a ‘toyboy’, or an ageing lothario actor/rock star with a twenty-something girlfriend. If Megan had been five years older, there would not have been a murmur about her age.
Megan now has to face the questioning of police and counsellors and a future where her ‘boyfriend’ will lose his career and most likely bear the stigma of being labelled a child abductor.
It seems, though, her teacher has inadvertently taught her one very important lesson:
Becoming an instant celebrity, is neither fun nor satisfying, and the price is high!