I’m in my mid-twenties, and I’ve been working as a substitute teacher for the last couple years (I joined Teach for America right out of college). I know some of the girls in classes I teach have crushes on me — high schoolers aren’t very subtle — but I brush it off, because I’m not an idiot. Last week, however, I got a disturbing email from a girl in the English class I subbed for. Pictures were attached. You get the gist. What do I do about this situation? I obviously haven’t responded, but I’m afraid she might go Lifetime-movie on me.
— THOSE PICS AREN’T MINE
Every day I thank all the gods that there was no such thing as sexting, that digital pics were too hard to email impulsively, and that Google wasn’t good enough to turn up any teacher’s personal email within five minutes of lackadaisical searching when I was in high school.
Not that I’d have been the kid who sent those things to anyone, let alone a teacher. But it never hurts not to have the option. Teen brains are like beehives in a world that’s all sticks.
Luckily, even the most cursory examination of your computer and/or accounts will prove the story you’re telling. Unless this girl is a evil genius, and set the email up with all kinds of internet proxy servers and worms and other tech things I frankly don’t understand, the digital breadcrumbs will prove exactly what you’re telling me.
So: Go immediately to authorities.
Start with the school; these are your potential employers, and you don’t want to appear to be hiding anything from them. Tell them exactly what you told me: that you did nothing to provoke this (add that you don’t know how she got your email, or explain how she would have if you know) and that you haven’t responded because you were uncomfortable with the situation. See what they suggest as next steps.
I would push for them to facilitate official contact with the police. Being as open as possible about this is your friend (just watch one of those Lifetime movies if you’re in doubt).
Finally, encourage school officials to look into mental health options for the student. Teens are impulsive and make bad decisions all the time, but emailing nude photos of yourself to pretty-much-a-stranger implies something deeper is going on. If you don’t feel they’re following through, the Department of Children and Families might have some advice on how to proceed.
The reason crazies get so far in Lifetime movies is that no one does the reasonable thing from the beginning: telling someone in a position of power about the crazy. Ensure your story is a dud with no plot twists by talking about this now.
And maybe start wearing dumpier looking clothes to work. It can’t hurt, right?