I'm particularly talking about student-teacher relationships. Females are usually given less punishment for the same or a similar crime. A couple of years ago I found my former high school teacher had an inappropriate relationship with two of his students (in Texas). Both were of 18 years of age at the time of the incident. more detail about it. He was sentenced two years ago and was given the maximum sentence of 20 years.

A female teacher in Texas who also had an inappropriate relationship with a student was given five years and the victims were also 18 at the time. She had relationships with five of her students. here's the story.

In another case, Stacy Schuler, a 33 year old high school teacher, was convicted of 16 felony counts of sexual battery and three misdemeanor counts of providing alcohol to minors. She was sentenced to four years in prison and she invited the high school football team to her house where they engaged in sexual acts. Some were under the age of 18 here's the story.

Why is there such a big gap between these punishments for the same crimes??

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    I'm not sure this is a politics question. I'm also not sure three examples is sufficient to prove a case, or whether it's just sampling bias. Definitely an interesting question, though, and a good topic for a research paper.
    – Bobson
    Aug 6, 2016 at 0:09
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    Yes, we need a whole lot more data here to establish the premise. These are just 3 anecdotes.
    – user1530
    Aug 6, 2016 at 0:27
  • 8
    This appears to be a question for law.stackexchange.com
    – Philipp
    Aug 6, 2016 at 10:09
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    Don't post them all. Find a study that talks about them as a group and post that. The plural of anecdote is not data. You want a data source that tries to be comprehensive.
    – Brythan
    Aug 6, 2016 at 17:21
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    @user4012 - I never said it wasn't. I said three examples didn't prove anything. Since the studies have been done, the question should cite/link those instead of individual cases.
    – Bobson
    Aug 7, 2016 at 13:37

1 Answer 1


The untested premise here is that males receive harsher sentences for these kinds of crimes than females.

To address your question and provide you with references you can read, I won't cite anything behind a paywall, which is tough. Luckily, someone posted their M.A. thesis on exactly this subject online for free. It was completed in 2012 under the faculty at Arizona State University.

I'll summarize some key points below. You can refer to the original document for their references. If you have access to an academic database, you can read the referenced articles there.

In General, Females Receive More Lenient Sentences than Males

The literature review discusses gender differences in sentencing, and concludes that males receive harsher sentences than females. It also states that this tends to happen because judges deviate from sentencing guidelines more often when sentencing females.

Sentencing Regarding Improper Relationships with Students

This research examined sentencing for cases within a single area in Arizona over a 10 year period. They note that 1 case was rejected because they could not procure records, leaving them with 13 cases of teachers having inappropriate relationships with students.

These 13 cases involved 16 teachers - 11 male and 5 female. Two of the victims were male, the remaining victims were all female. The methods section describes more about the cases and their similarities/differences.

The project finds that the female teachers were generally given the minimum sentence, while male teachers were generally given something closer to the presumptive sentence (which is what you get unless some other factor increases/decreases it). Since the presumptive sentence is the default, it seems that judges deviated from the presumptive sentence for female perpetrators.


Their research does not attempt to identify a singular reason for this, but identifies three possibilities for a gender gap in sentencing in the literature review section. These are theoretical grounds for any gender gap in sentencing, not just this type of crime:

  1. Judicial paternalism - Judges are usually male, and may treat sentencing perpetrators like disciplining children. Therefore, they may give females lighter sentences than males.
  2. Chivalry - Judges feel they are protecting females from punishment which is too intense to be suitable for them. One spin on this is that females may more often be seen as responsible for childcare, and so the family is being protected when the woman is protected.
  3. Focal theory - Females are seen as less blameworthy than males, females are viewed as being intrinsically less of a risk to society than males, and it may be perceived that females need to be shielded from harsh punishments.


This research shows that in a limited area, females do receive harsher punishments than males for having improper relationships with students. It outlines some theoretical reasons why. It was conducted under the guidance of experienced faculty who know how to do good research.

However - it can not be generalized to other areas and it doesn't fully explore why this happens. Despite these limitations, it decently answers part of your question and hopefully guides you to a better explanation.

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    None of those reasons really feel right to me - they all seem to be variants on "judges think women are weak", which might explain some cases, but ring false for a large sample. I prefer the reason put forth in a (opinion-based and now deleted) answer which posited that there is an assumption that more coercion is involved in male-teacher-female-student cases than the reverse. That said, good job finding that thesis, and this is exactly the type of answer this question needs.
    – Bobson
    Aug 11, 2016 at 13:21
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    I'm not an expect on this subject. But if you prefer an opinion-based reason to scientific research, there isn't much I can do to help alleviate your concerns. Aug 11, 2016 at 13:54
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    I approve of the research in the paper and the conclusions it reaches ("differences exist"). I just don't think the theoretical explanations presented in the review are sufficient to explain it. After skimming the paper, I think my issue is really that you mischaracterize that section. Those theories are presented as a sample of reasons for sentencing discrepancies in general, which may or may not be relevant here. The author doesn't posit any reason himself or claim they are applicable (or not) here.
    – Bobson
    Aug 11, 2016 at 14:17
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    You say "This research shows that in a limited area, females do receive harsher punishments than males". What limited area was that? Or is that sentence just wrong?
    – gnasher729
    Aug 12, 2016 at 11:52
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    Within the specific counties in Arizona within the time period covered by the researcher. Aug 12, 2016 at 14:08

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