A 27-year-old teacher in Texas has been arrested after he applied for a marriage license with his underage student, even though her parents gave consent.
Randy Arias taught Spanish and coached track at the Austin high school where 17-year-old Brenda Guerra was enrolled.
Police say that the pair secretly started dating one month ago and that they learned of the relationship from an anonymous caller.
"Whoever did call made a good judgment call," said Lt. Eric Mendez from the Austin Independent School District. "They met on the weekends and from there it just kind of blossomed."
According to court documents, "Arias asked her to the movies around the first weekend in March 2008 and then took her back to his apartment where they had sexual intercourse."
Police say even though the affair was consensual, Arias was arrested and now faces up to 20 years behind bars. In Texas any sexual relationship between a teacher and a student at the same school is a second-degree felony.
Neither Arias nor Guerra have spoken out, but her mother, who gave her blessing with her signature, told The Associated Press the reason was "for love."
More than 2,500 educators were punished for sexual misconduct between 2001 and 2005, according to an AP investigation.
What You Should Know
Clinical psychologist Bethany Marshall offered parents some advice on how to tell the difference between a crush and something more dangerous.
Marshall said one of the first warning signs is "extensive secretiveness."
For example, "if they say they're spending the night at Sally's house, but you find out they're in a motel across town, or they start quoting someone like a coach, becoming suspicious towards you, saying, for example, 'you're trying to tear me and the coach apart," Marshall said. She also said to look out for early sexualized behavior, such as a daughter inappropriately flirting with adult men at a grown-up party.
If you think your child is caught up in a dangerous situation, here's what Marshall says parents can do:
"Your child's brain is like a souped-up engine without an adequate breaking system. You have to put the breaks on for them."
"Tell them what they're involved in is wrong, that the adult should never have violated their trust."
"Reach out to authorities when you can, because this sends a message to your child that the whole situation is wrong and that you'll help them."
"Also, one of the tasks of adolescence is not only to form relationships, but to learn to grieve and separate. So explain to them that intense infatuation is not the same as falling in love. Feelings are not facts. And also, intense sexuality does not mean you'll spend the rest of your life with somebody."
The best strategy though is pre-emptive parenting to try and avoid such a situation in the first place.
Marshall recommends spending more time with children, which helps to stabilize them. If that's not possible than Marshall suggests appointing a person outside of the family to spend more time with them, such as an aunt, uncle or someone they can turn to.
"Never turn over the parenting to an outside party. No one should be more interested in your children than you are," warned Marshall.
"Do not go into denial. Your kid is great, but their entire sexuality and identity is in flux so they're extremely vulnerable."