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10 Teachers Who Ran Away With Their Students

by Sam Dunsmore
fact checked by Jamie Frater

We usually think of teachers as people who have the best interests of their students in mind. Sure, there are teachers who pick on certain kids or give ridiculous amounts of homework, but we really don’t associate them with criminal behavior.

Nevertheless, some teachers become overly attached to their pupils and form inappropriate relationships with them. When the teachers get caught, they take the student and run. Together, they travel to different cities, states, and even countries. Fortunately, they are usually caught quickly.

10 Lisa Lavoie

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Twenty-four-year-old Lisa Lavoie befriended a 15-year-old student and gave him her cell phone number. They began texting, and the relationship soon became sexual. She warned the teen that she would lose her job if people found out about their relationship. However, they decided to continue seeing each other.

When the boy’s parents learned that their son was involved with Lavoie, they contacted the school. Lavoie was terrified when school officials confronted her, and the teen feared that Lavoie might harm herself. The pair decided to flee Massachusetts.

The boy’s mother discovered that he was missing from their home, and she called the police. She told them that he was possibly with his teacher. Lavoie’s parents gave police their daughter’s bank card information, and officers traced the card’s use.

Police followed Lavoie and her student through several states. A week later, the bank told police that Lavoie had checked into a motel in West Virginia. Police obtained a passkey for her room, and Lavoie surrendered quietly. She was arrested, and the student was taken into custody and returned to his family.

Lavoie was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to have no contact with the boy. Three years later, her probation officer conducted a routine but unannounced home visit. He discovered the teen in her closet. Lavoie was sentenced to 18 months in prison.[1]

9 Tad Cummins

Photo credit: CBS News

Fifty-year-old Tad Cummins developed a close relationship with his 15-year-old student Elizabeth Thomas. The teen had been abused by her mother, and she relied on Cummins “like a friend and a counselor.” She was given a special seat next to him at school, and he would give her money and gifts.

Cummins frequently visited a fast-food restaurant where Thomas worked, although she would sometimes hide from him and ask coworkers to say she was not there. Cummins desired a closer relationship with Thomas. He pressured her to go out with him by threatening her with repercussions at school.

Their friendship turned physical, and a student reported seeing them kiss. The school investigated the incident for two weeks. They removed Thomas from Cummins’s class, and he was forbidden to interact with her. Cummins met with the teen anyway. School officials found out, and he was suspended.

Cummins made plans with Thomas to escape. He picked her up at a restaurant and drove west. They traveled 4,000 kilometers (2,500 mi) to the Black Bear Ranch in northern California, a commune for people who want to “go back to the land.” Cummins decided to escape across the US border into Mexico. He bought a $1,500 two-seater kayak and attempted to paddle into Mexico from San Diego. Their first test run was unsuccessful.

While they were at the cabin, they befriended Griffin Barry.[2] He recognized Cummins as a fugitive and called the police. Officers surrounded the cabin, and Cummins was arrested without a fight. Police searched the cabin and found two loaded handguns.

Officers located Thomas. She was unharmed by the 38 days she had spent on the run. Thomas received therapy for several months and was placed in her family’s care.

Cummins was charged with aggravated kidnapping. While in jail, he confessed to his wife that he had had a sexual relationship with the girl, and he begged his wife to forgive him. She divorced him.

8 Laureth May

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Twenty-nine-year-old Laureth May grew close to her 17-year-old student Destiny. They bonded over art, and May encouraged Destiny’s artistic talent. By the end of the semester, their relationship had turned sexual. School officials soon found out and fired May.

A few weeks later, May got into a fight with her fiance. Early the next morning, she woke up their three young sons, loaded them into her station wagon, and drove off. May stopped to pick up Destiny. Then they left Illinois and traveled to Florida.

They spent a month on the run before police randomly ran May’s license plate. Officers found that the car belonged to a missing person, and they pulled May over. She was taken into custody. The children were all in good health. Destiny was returned to her family, and May’s sons were given to their father.[3]

May was charged with kidnapping and criminal sexual assault.

7 Glenn Harris

Thirty-three-year-old Glenn Harris was a teacher at a school for at-risk teens. There, he met 15-year-old Christina, and they became fast friends. She would go to his classroom early in the morning, and they would spend lunchtime together. Their relationship turned physical, and her classmates often saw them hugging and kissing. Teachers spent months complaining that they seemed to be romantically involved.

Faculty warned them both to stop this behavior. When Harris learned that he was the subject of an investigation, he claimed that Christina’s father was abusing her.[4] However, her father did not live with her and did not have visitation rights. Harris later expanded the child abuse claim to include Christina’s mother.

Christina mailed a love note to her teacher. However, it was returned for insufficient postage and her mother opened the letter. It revealed that there was a sexual relationship between her daughter and the teacher. Christina’s mother confronted her daughter.

Christina ran away and met up with Harris. They boarded a train, traveled across the country, and spent the next two months traveling from one motel to the next. At the same time, they searched for false identification for Christina so that they could be married.

While watching TV, they learned that they were the subject of a nationwide manhunt. Harris turned himself in to the police. He claimed that he had kidnapped the girl to protect her from her abusive parents.

Harris was sentenced to three years’ probation.

6 Kelsey Peterson

Photo credit: ABC News

Twenty-five-year-old Kelsey Peterson was considered the cool teacher who frequently befriended her middle school students. She developed a close relationship with her 12-year-old student Fernando Rodriguez. The pair exchanged affectionate emails, and he would often spend late nights at her home. Their friendship morphed into a physical relationship, and he started staying overnight at her home.

School officials heard rumors of Peterson’s actions. They asked her to hand over her school-issued laptop, and they discovered love letters between Peterson and Rodriguez. Peterson knew that the police would soon come after her, and she began planning a romantic life with Rodriguez in his native Mexico.

She drove 2,250 kilometers (1,400 mi) to Mexico while Rodriguez watched Disney movies in the car. The pair spent a week on the run and quickly ran out of money. Rodriguez called his family and asked them to send money. The FBI traced his call, and Mexican authorities apprehended the duo.

Peterson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to not more than seven years and three months in prison.

Rodriguez, an illegal immigrant, was not allowed to immediately return to the United States. He stayed with Mexican relatives for three months until he was given a special visa for crime victims.

Rodriguez later admitted that he thought his relationship with his teacher was “weird.” While he and Peterson were spending time together, he tried to socialize with girls his own age. Peterson became upset when Rodriguez said that he felt more comfortable with a girl his own age.[5]

5 Paul Tramontini

Photo credit: BBC

Thirty-four-year-old Paul Tramontini met 14-year-old Katherine Baillie after he watched her play in a band. The teen developed a crush on the teacher, and Tramontini quickly reciprocated her feelings. He proposed and gave her an engagement ring.

Her parents did not approve of their relationship. Tramontini wrote a letter to Baillie’s parents and told them: “If this were a movie, we would ride off on horseback.” He did not win their approval.

News of their relationship spread throughout the school, and Tramontini resigned from his job. He continued his relationship with Baillie, and she often visited his house.

Baillie disappeared from her parents’ home for four days. Police interviewed Tramontini, and officers discovered used condoms in his home. After the policemen left, Tramontini sent Baillie a text message and urged her not to have a police medical examination. After Baillie went home, Tramontini was arrested on suspicion of child abduction.

A few days later, the pair ran away. They traveled to a gas station where Baillie bleached her hair and cut it short. Tramontini bought a wig, and they started calling each other by new names. They traveled all over England. She sang, and he performed magic for tips. They slept in people’s cars, public bathrooms, or bus stops.

They realized that they would have to turn themselves in if they were going to have a proper life together. After 415 days on the run, Tramontini turned himself in to the police. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.[6]

4 Anjali Singh

Twenty-three-year-old Anjali Singh started chatting with a 16-year-old male student at a school dance. They exchanged phone numbers and quickly developed a friendship, which turned into a relationship.

They went to see a movie and became scared about being seen together. So they decided to elope. They destroyed their SIM cards and sold their phones before they boarded a train and traveled to another state. They talked to fellow passengers, including a group of friends, who promised to help the duo find a place to stay. Singh and her student found an apartment and jobs at a mall.

The boy’s father called the police and told them that his son had been kidnapped by Singh. Officers talked to Singh’s students, who said that the duo were in a “serious relationship.” Police located the pair after several weeks. The boy could not resist posting to Facebook, and police were able to track his location to an Internet cafe.

Police returned the teen to his family and arrested Singh. She was charged with kidnapping a minor.[7]

3 Jeremy Forrest

Photo credit: The Guardian

Thirty-year-old Jeremy Forrest, a teacher and tattooed guitar player, became close with a 14-year-old female student while on a school trip. The duo had the same taste in music, and the girl was enthralled by Forrest. On the flight home, the student, who was terrified of flying, gripped Forrest’s hand and did not let go until the plane landed.

Forrest realized that the teen girl had a crush on him, and he encouraged her infatuation. They began exchanging flirtatious messages on Twitter. People became uncomfortable with the duo’s messaging. So Forrest gave the girl his phone number, and they began meeting outside of school.

Shortly after the girl’s 15th birthday, Forrest told her, “I really want to kiss you.” The teen encouraged him. A sexual relationship soon followed, and the girl spent nearly every day at Forrest’s home during summer break.

School restarted, and rumors began to swirl around the couple. Forrest claimed that the rumors were lies created by the girl, and he called her mother to complain that the false rumors were ruining his career. The teen’s classmates began shouting “slut” at her when she walked down the hallway.

Then the girl’s brother called her and said that the police wanted to talk to her. She and Forrest made plans to run away. The teen deleted all mentions of Forrest on her cell phone, went home, handed over her phone, and denied any impropriety with her teacher.

Forrest picked her up the next day and drove to the ferry port. The pair traveled to France, where they spent the next eight days. They dyed their hair to change their appearances and paid their bills in cash at cheap motels. They made fake resumes and applied for work at various bars and restaurants. The owner of a bar recognized Forrest from the news and alerted the police. Forrest was arrested the next day, and the teenage girl was placed into police custody.

Forrest was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison, but he served less than three. He was also permanently banned from working with children.[8]

2 Tanya Joan Hadden

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Thirty-three-year-old Tanya Hadden taught 15-year-old Richard Pena in her science class in San Bernardino, California. She noted that he was a brilliant student who easily earned an A in her class. The pair soon bonded over punk music and good conversation. Pena bummed a few rides home, and the duo started sharing fast-food meals.

Hadden fell in love with her student and began a sexual relationship with him.[9] Students noticed that the pair were often “sexually touching and kissing each other.”

Police found out that Hadden had bought alcohol for Pena and one of his friends. They questioned her, and she confessed. She was told that she might be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Pena was terrified that his strict parents would find out that he had been drinking. He asked Hadden to take him for a drive, and they wound up in Las Vegas. Authorities tracked them to a hotel on the Strip several nights later. He was returned to his family, and she was arrested.

Hadden was sentenced to five years’ probation and placed on the sex offender registry. She was forbidden to teach again.

1 Terry Schmutte

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In his late thirties, Terry Schmutte worked as a substitute teacher and assistant track coach. Schmutte met a 16-year-old student on a trip to an art museum and started a relationship with the teen that lasted 18 months before school officials learned of it. They asked him to resign.

A few months later, he and the teen left Nebraska for Canada. He rented a car but did not return it on time. So police started to search for the vehicle. Two weeks later, Canadian officers discovered the car in a rural area. They took Schmutte and the girl into custody. The teen’s parents brought her home.

Schmutte was arrested, and police discovered he had a history of assaulting teen girls. When he was 26, he was sentenced to 18 months’ probation after he fondled a 15-year-old girl. Schmutte had also been dismissed two years earlier after female students complained that he made them feel uncomfortable. He had ogled the girls and rubbed their backs when he talked to them.[10]

Schmutte was sentenced to 10–12 years in prison.

fact checked by Jamie Frater