Being an educator is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Even though they're only paid a minuscule salary, teachers are in charge of educating the future leaders of our nation and making sure every student knows they have their unwavering support.
But, there have been rare occasions where educators have breached a parent's trust and have taken it too far. Along with the infamous Debra Lafave, we all remember the story of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau, the student-teacher relationship that, to put it lightly, repulsed a nation.
For those who need a refresher on the sordid romance, take a look at the history of the controversial couple from the very beginning to the strained relationship they have today.
Fualaau was only in the second grade when he met Letourneau, who was his teacher at the time. They quickly formed a strong bond, and kept in close contact when he graduated from her class.
Letourneau noticed Fualaau had an artistic ability very few children have possessed. She often took him to museums, bought him art supplies and helped cultivate his poetry skills.
"There was a respect, an insight, a spirit, an understanding between us that grew over time," she told The Seattle Times in 1997. "It was the kind of feeling you have with a brother or sister — a feeling that they’re part of your life forever."
In 1996, Fualaau would have then 34-year-old Letourneau as a teacher again in the sixth grade, but this time their relationship would become more than just platonic.
During that year, Letourneau and her husband Steve had been dealing with martial problems, which was only heightened by a recent miscarriage. It was at that point the school teacher would turn to the 12-year-old boy for support.
According to Fualaau, he made a $20 bet with his friend that he'd be able to seduce the then mother-of-four.
At this point Letourneau had become infatuated with Fualaau, but was hesitant about becoming intimate with him.
"I had promised myself it would not happen before my divorce," Letourneau said.
But she wouldn't stick to her word, and it was just days before Fualaau's 13th birthday that the two entered into a sexual relationship.
Time In Prison
Their relationship would be revealed in May 1994 when Letourneau's husband notified the police about the forbidden romance after he discovered love letters between the two.
She was promptly charged with two counts of second-degree child rape and was given a seven year and six month jail sentence. However, Judge Linda Lau said she would only have to serve six months of her sentence, on the condition that Letourneau enter a treatment program for sex offenders, take medication for her bipolar disorder and cut off all contact with Fualaau.
However, not everyone was willing to cut her slack, especially due to her lack of remorse.
"She doesn’t believe she needs treatment, because she doesn’t believe she did anything wrong," prosecutor Lisa Johnson had said at her trial.
Despite her damnation by the public, she still claimed Fualaau was "the love of my life," and had given birth to their first child only three months prior to her trial.
However, Letourneau wouldn't abide by Lau's orders. Only two weeks after she was released in 1998, the couple were seen together in Letourneau's car.
When she returned to court after breaching the rules of her parole, she was told she would have to finish the remaining seven years of her sentence and register as a sex offender.
It was later revealed Letourneau was pregnant with the pair's second child, which she gave birth to behind bars.
"I think reliving the time in prison was brutal," said Brad Abramson, the producer of the A&E Biography special, Mary Kay Letourneau: Autobiography. "Giving birth in prison. And having her baby go away. Missing her kids. Missing all those birthdays. She’s openly weeping as she’s talking about missing her older children’s birthdays while in prison.
"I think she felt very, very conflicted. It brought back a lot of raw emotions. I was quite surprised to see that after 20 years. Those raw emotions were still close at hand," he added.
But even though Letourneau was behind bars, she still found ways to communicate to Fualaau in the outside world.
"She communicated with codes that we had shared with each other on breastmilk ... little number codes," Vili shared.
Release And Wedding
Once Letourneau was out of prison, Fualaau asked a judge to end the court-ordered no-contact order, which was eventually granted, and it would only be a matter of months until tied the knot in front of 200 guests.
"Yes, he was a minor, but they had back-channel contact during the time they weren’t supposed to be speaking. Not as regularly as they would have otherwise, but they were in contact. This was a couple who was in love," he added.
A year after their nuptials, Letourneau would tell PEOPLE that she and her family lived a normal life.
“We do normal things,” she said, adding that the family "all went out to dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant, then over to Blockbuster to get a movie."
Cracks In The Marriage
Although it seemed the controversial pair would live on happily ever after, the public was shocked when Fualaau filed for legal separation in 2017.
"They’ve been having issues for a while now," a source told PEOPLE. "They tried to work through them, but it didn’t work. They’re still committed to being good parents to their children."
"I’m convinced they were totally in love," family friend David Gehrke added. "But sometimes, people who are totally in love have trouble staying in love. They slowly drift apart. One day, you wake up and realize that things are different with your partner."
But despite their separation, Letourneau and Fualaau have gone to counseling and are still living under the same roof.
The TV Special
As mentioned above, A&E filmed a TV special titled, Mary Kay Letourneau: Autobiography, where only one topic was off-limits: their split.
Although Letourneau told producers "We’re not talking about that," she did give a general comment on marriage.
"There is a labor in love," she said. "Anyone who’s making love work in a marriage knows it’s work."
However, just because she and Fualaau are staying silent on the matter, it doesn't mean everyone else is too.
"I’m gonna tell you why she refuses to speak about it," Greenberg said. "It’s because she doesn’t know the answer to it. She’s living in hope. Mary wants this relationship to work. Vili’s in his mid-30s, and Mary’s in her mid-50s, and you just have to relate it to anyone else you know and their relationship issues."
"Mary’s hopeful," he continued. "She loves Vili. There’s absolutely no question about that."
Even though Letourneau and Fualaau's interview with Barbara Walters only took place in 2015, a lot has changed in the course of four years.
"She’s there in her house, near where her original family was," Greenberg explained. "She’s still in touch with her four older children from her first marriage. "
"And they are a part of her life now. It’s pretty unimaginable… that 20 years later, you have her and her kids and Villi and her older kids all together as one extended family. It’s pretty remarkable what she has done," he continued.
Although their two daughters are 21 and 19 respectively, Fualaau revealed he and Letourneau tell Audrey and Georgia the story of their love affair at least once a year.
"Mary and I both told them the story probably once a year," Fualaau said. "I don't think they understood at the time, they just looked at us both as that's mommy, that's daddy. I don't think they clearly understood why there were cameras around. But now that they are of age, they graduated, they got a clear picture of what happened."
Fualaau is now 34 years old, and works as a DJ, but wants to go back to school to earn a diploma. At 56, Letourneau works as a paralegal, which she says is a profession suited just for her.
"I know the court rules because I was in solitary confinement and had to memorize them," she joked.
Thankfully not all educators have questionable morals. Take a look at these heroic teachers:
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