MORAL TURPITUDE AT THE PODIUM: Inappropriate Relationships In The Band Room

Moral Turpitude A phrase used in Criminal Law to describe conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals. Crimes involving moral turpitude have an inherent quality of vileness or depravity with respect to a person’s duty to another or to society in general.


As educators we have a strict moral standard we are held to. Parents trust us with their most prized possessions for 8 or more hours of the day and they expect that the time spent at school, or in the educational environment, is time invested in their child’s future through positive musical, social, and academic growth. So when stories like these are blasted over the airwaves, newspapers and social media, a stain is placed on the entire profession that is not easily removed:

Though we’ve all read the reports, heard the gossip, or know someone who has been in this situation, we still find ourselves asking; How does this happen? Why does this happen? What can we do to help make it stop?…


As an educator who loves my profession I’ve always despised this deviant behavior, and being the father of a middle school aged son, and two younger daughters, has given me an even deeper perspective. What if one of my children was sexually assaulted by his/her band director… Would I recognize the signs? How would it affect their trust of teachers or adults in general?… How will it impact their growth and development? These are the questions that the characters who prey on their students rarely ponder. They, of course, are only concerned with their sick fantasies and not getting caught.


Child molesters are cunning experts at deception. In many instances, the red flags can be, practically, under our noses and we will miss them if we do not know what to look for. It could happen to anyone… It happened to me. Years ago, a colleague of mine was accused of some unbecoming behavior. At the time I was so involved with my band’s performance abilities and everything else the job commands, I missed all the signs… It hurt deeply when I found out about it all, because I felt like I did not protect my students. I vowed to never let it happen again. Listed below are some signs and tactics of predator grooming. It is my hope that this article may help prevent future sexual assaults by bringing awareness to these tactics.


  • Predators search for a child in need of some extra attention or affection, or one who seems shy and lacking in confidence. The perpetrator may observe the child and assesses his/her vulnerabilities to learn how best to approach and interact with the child. Sometimes this child is more of a loner or someone in need of friendship or guidance.
  • The predator will attempt to gain trust. It may begin with being the voice of understanding and a sympathetic ear, and then engage the child in ways that will eventually gain their friendship beyond that of an adult/child relationship but more “buddy” or “pal” like. It may appear that the predator is the only one who fully understands the child or meets the child’s needs in a particular way.
  • The predator may play games with victims or give them rides home or to other locations. The victim will be pampered with gifts and/or special treats.
  • The perpetrator may begin to communicate through private communication with the victim (such as letters, social media, emails or text messages), and strengthen it with admonitions against telling anyone, lest others be unhappy about it.
  • The predator may initiate physical contact with the victim. It may begin with touching that is not overtly sexual (though a predator may find it sexually gratifying) and that may appear to be casual (arm around the shoulder, pat on the knee, etc.). Gradually, the perpetrator will introduce more sexualized touching. The perpetrator may threaten the victim with disclosure, suicide, physical harm to the child or loved ones, or other traumas if he or she tells.
  • Predators rely on the secrecy of the relationship to keep it going. The victims are often afraid of disclosing the abuse. They may have been told that they will not be believed, or that something about the victim “makes” the abuser do this to them. The victim may also feel shame, or fear that they will be blamed.

I’m not sure why this behavior is so rampant amongst band directors, or teachers in general. I do know that being aware of what to look for as co workers, parents, and students will help marginalize these individuals and force them out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Be vigilant.

Published by Ernest Stackhouse

-Music Educator -Marching Band Show Design -Musical Arranger -Adjudicator -Fine Arts Administrator -Band Director -Writer

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