"I never imagined that my love for another human being could turn into this kind of a nightmare," says 27-year-old Janelle. "My relationshi
Janelle was 24 and a high school biology teacher when she had an affair with a 15-year-old male student. "He was in my class. He asked me for a ride to school in the mornings. In the car, we would have a personal conversation," she remembers. Janelle volunteered to accompany the Spanish class trip to Costa Rica, and that's where she got to know him better. "A few weeks after we got back from Costa Rica, I began to have feelings for him, and I could tell that he felt the same way, so I let him kiss me. Things went from kissing to touching," she reveals.
Eventually, Janelle and the boy had sex. "I was a virgin. He was a virgin. I did not believe in premarital sex, but I didn't feel guilty because I loved him. He loved me. We said it to each other every time we spoke," says Janelle, who had a Christian upbringing. "I considered him my soul mate." She and the boy would have sex at her apartment, after school or during the weekend. "Sometimes his mother would drop him off so we could spend time together.
Janelle says that her life felt like a roller coaster. "It was the happiest time of my life but also the scariest," she says. "I never wanted to break up with him."
The boy's parents confronted Janelle about the relationship. "It scared me because I didn't know what they knew. His mom threatened to get me fired. I was expecting the police to just barge into my classroom at any moment to arrest me. Every time there was a knock at my apartment door, I got panicky," she recalls. "I knew I was going to be arrested, so on my attorney's advice, I turned myself in." Janelle was suspended without pay from her teaching job.
"My worst nightmare right now is having to go to prison. I have to register as a sex offender, and I can't work with children. I won't be allowed to be around them anymore," she says, tearfully. "Even though everything went horribly wrong, when you love someone the way that I loved him, I still can't say that I regret loving him."
Janelle acknowledges that she could have prevented all of this. "When I first realized that I loved him, I should have never seen him again, but I was thinking with my heart and not with my head," she says. "I'm not dangerous, and I'm not a threat to anyone or their children."
"You said, even as you sit here now, you don't regret this falling in love with him and getting involved with him?" Dr. Phil asks Janelle.
"I don't regret loving him, but I do regret that the relationship became physical," she says.
"He's 15 and you're 24. What are you thinking?" Dr. Phil asks. "What did you say to yourself at the time?"
"But you understand that at 15, he is a child," Dr. Phil says. "At 15, his brain isn't through growing yet. He can't predict the consequences of his actions. You're in a position of authority. You're in a position of respect, and you exploit that into a sexual relationship."
"I don't feel like I exploited anything," Janelle says. "I didn't think of him as a child, and when we were together, it didn't seem like I was older than him."
"How can you have sex with a 15-year-old when you are an adult in a position of authority and that not be abusive, that not be exploitive?" Dr. Phil probes.
"I know that he wasn't taken advantage of. I wasn't taking advantage of him," Janelle says. "I just can't believe that I exploited him in any way, because I know in my heart how
"You're talking about how you felt. This isn't just all about you. That's the problem," Dr. Phil points out. "The fact is you had someone there who isn't even old enough to drive." He asks Janelle if she believes she made a bad decision.
"Yes, I do," Janelle says.
"Do you believe that he is injured by that decision?"
"I think that he is injured by all the things that he's had to go through as a result of this, yes," she says. "I think if our relationship had just ended and none of the after things had happened, I don't think that he would be injured. I think that he would actually be a better person, because I think that we grew together."
"So you just don't really get what all this hoopla is about?" Dr. Phil asks.
"No, I understand what all this hoopla is about," she says.
"You say, â€˜I am not a predator. I am not a danger to people's children, and you shouldn't be looking at me that way,'" Dr. Phil says, noting that Janelle has said that she didn't really think about what she was doing at the time it was happening, and she didn't think about the impact it was having on the 15-year-old.
"So, we know that your judgment, your problem recognition skills, your ability to see the need for and construct a boundary between you and children is simply not there. So, how can you say you're not a threat, you're not a risk?" Dr. Phil asks.
"Because I believe that now I do know. Now I'm very cautious. I'm just trying to do what I know I'm supposed to do, and I will do what I know I'm supposed to do," she says.
"But you said you didn't see this coming," Dr. Phil reminds her. "You had unprotected sex with this boy. You're an adult. What if he got you pregnant? Did you think he was ready for that?"
"No," Janelle concedes.
"It didn't occur to you to protect him and you from pregnancy?" Dr. Phil pries.
Janelle explains that they didn't use protection the first few times, but then started using it. "The first time that we had sex it wasn't in my plan to have sex, and I don't have that type of stuff in my apartment or anything, because I wasn't sexually active," she says.
"It started out as a friendship and then kissing and then touching and then you have him alone in your apartment. Are you telling me you couldn't see this coming?" Dr. Phil asks in disbelief.
"I have never loved anyone in the past, a male, and when you've never been in that type of position in your life ever before, no, you can't anticipate what'
Dr. Phil points out that Janelle has a bachelor of science in biology, so she should have known what was to come.
"What I'm saying that you can't anticipate is saying no sexually to someone that you love is harder than just saying no," Janelle says.
Dr. Phil introduces Janelle's attorney, Jerry Allred, and asks him, "The principal tenets of your argument were what?"
"Not all 24-year-olds are alike, and here's a living personification of that fact. Home-schooled, fundamentally Christian school-raised. She may have a Bachelor's in biology but she's probably still in early high school in experience," Mr. Allred explains. "She's not the ordinary 24-year-old. He is a rather sophisticated young man for hi
"As a father, I don't believe I want a teacher sleeping with my 15-year-old. I don't care whether she's developmentally arrested or not," Dr. Phil says. "You seem to kind of trivialize this. You said the jury let her go on this account and that, but they found her guilty of unlawful sexual activity with certain minors and unnatural and lascivious acts. So what do you hope to get at a sentencing?"
Mr. Allred says that from the beginning he tried to negotiate so Janelle would not have to be listed as a sexual predator. "This was a 24-year-old virgin falling in love with a sophisticated 15-year-and-11-month-old young man. They fell in love. That's not a sex offense," he says.
Asked what she thinks is going to happen, Janelle says she has no idea. "I hope that they'll just give me probation, because I feel like I've already learned a huge lesson through all of this,"
"If you fell in love with another student, would you do this again?" Dr. Phil asks.
"No," Janelle says. "I allowed myself to be in a position where that could happen, and now I know better, and I'm not going to even allow myself to be in a position where that would be a possibility."
"Are you still in love?" Dr. Phil asks.
"No. I still love him in the way that human beings are supposed to love each other, but no, I'm not in love with him anymore," she says.