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People Magazine Catches Up with Deb LaFave, the Sex Scandal Teacher GOAT

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PeopleIn 2004, Debra Lafave was a popular young English teacher at a Tampa-area middle school. Newly married to her husband, Owen, the 24-year-old was seemingly at the beginning of a long career in education.

But near the end of the school year, things started falling apart. According to court documents, Lafave accompanied a 14-year-old boy to see his cousin 100 miles away. The boy’s aunt grew concerned seeing the teen in the company of a skimpily-dressed adult woman. Later, the boy told his mother that he was having a sexual relationship with Lafave.

The boy told police officers in Temple Terrace, Florida, that he had sex with Lafave three times in four days, according to court documents. One of those times was allegedly in a car while his 15-year-old cousin drove them around. He also said she performed a sex act on him multiple times, including one encounter at her home. …

Her Life Today

Lafave is now 37 years old, living in a modest 3-bedroom home in a small Tampa suburb. She reverted to her maiden name, Beasley, and has avoided media interviews. She has completed her required community service and sex offender classes; she paid back the $13,000 court fees.

She has worked several jobs that would not put her in contact with minors, including several jobs in the restaurant industry. In 2011, she was in a relationship with a restaurant owner, and gave birth to twin boys. The relationship didn’t work out, and in 2016 the couple went through a custody dispute. …

Earlier this year, Lafave’s friend, Joe Zuniga, wrote a book about her — and said that the former teacher signed off on it. Entitled “Debra Lafave: A Crown of Beauty for Ashes,” the self-published book is sympathetic to his friend, who Zuniga says has grown both spiritually and emotionally since the scandal.

“She is very good-hearted, and she does a lot for other people,” Zuniga [says].

First of all, I want to applaud People for following up with Debra LaFave. She is arguably the one who launched the Grading the Newest Sex Scandal Teacher blogs. The heart of the order in the first SST Starting Lineup I ever did, possibly as far back as 2006, but I don’t remember exactly. All I know is that when I did start the feature, I hoped that someday in 2017, she would walk down the street and say “There goes Deb LaFave. The greatest there ever was in the Sex Scandal Teacher game.” And we are.

These “Where are They Now?” features are always a crapshoot. It can be gut-wrenching to see your old heroes broken and dejected. Shadows of their former selves, cursed to live in the faint glow of their now long-gone glory. I’m thinking of old boxers who’ve lost their faculties. Or ballplayers subjected to a sad life of sitting behind tables at card shows held in hotel function rooms with a short line of middle aged fans waiting for their signature. I caught the Earl Campbell A Football Life a while ago, and between barely being able to walk and his slow, deliberate speech, your heart aches for the guy. But Debra is more like Barry Sanders in his episode. Alert. In good health. Still in the prime of his life. A self-actualized man who lives in the moment instead of his legendary past.

Sure, it’s not perfect. No one’s life is. But she’s working. Making babies. Staying out of trouble. Her debt to society is paid in full. She’s got a biography. She’s good-hearted and helps others. Sure the relationship didn’t work out. She may or may not have her twins still. And the book cost them money to print. But still. That doesn’t mean she won’t always be remembered fondly here. And in the spank banks of millions. Not to mention in the hearts of all those schoolboys whose attractive, nob-hungry lunatic teachers were inspired by Debra Beasley LaFave’s pioneering work. So godspeed Deb. If I had to pick just one woman to be the first SST Hall of Famer, you would be it.

@jerrythornton1