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California teacher leaves family to live with student, 18

10:28 AM, Mar 5, 2012   |    comments
Enochs High School student Jordan Powers, 18, and James Hooker, 41, talk about their relationship during an interview with The Modesto Bee.
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Modesto. Calif. (USA TODAY) -- The central California city of Modesto is in an uproar after a 41-year-old high school teacher quit his job and left his wife and children to move in with an 18-year-old student, according to news reports.

The young woman's mother is waging a Facebook campaign against the relationship and police are investigating whether the couple had any illegal contact before her 18th birthday in September. Both have said there was no sexual contact before she reached the legal age.

The Modesto Bee (via the Associated Press) spoke this week with James Hooker and Jordan Powers about their relationship and the resulting furor in their families and the community.

"In making our choice, we've hurt a lot of people," Hooker told the Bee. "We keep asking ourselves, 'Do we make everyone else happy or do we follow our hearts?' "

Hooker, who taught business and computer classes at Enochs High School, resigned Feb. 22. He was put on paid administrative leave Feb. 3 while officials investigated, and is now banned from having contact with students and staff at Enochs, where one of his children is a junior. No details about his children were provided.

Powers had been one of Hooker's business students. He said their relationship was "strictly teacher-student until mid-December, when they started talking more frequently and then dated," the Bee writes.

"I just kind of knew that she's the one," he said.

Powers moved out of her home last week and has stopped attending classes at the school. She said she is on independent study, plans to graduate in May and then study nursing at a four-year university.

She told ABC News that Hooker is "my best friend. I mean, he's more than just a lover."

Powers' mother, Tammie, learned in January about the relationship after she discovered text messages between the two -- an estimated 8,000 going back through the summer, and about 32 texts a day during the fall. She then notified police, who are still investigating.

Tammie Powers has raged against Hooker on her Facebook page and alleges he was pursuing her daughter when she was still a minor, a potential crime under California law.

"She looked up to him," she told ABC. "[He was in the] position of an educator, [and you] don't seduce your student. Period. She's still in high school. She still lives at home. She has a curfew. ... That's not OK."

School officials condemned teacher-student romances, with Superintendent Pam Able calling them "not only unprofessional, but immoral."

The Bee has a separate article on the ethical issues of such relationships.

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