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Interview with Heather Ingram

Aired August 25, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, you've heard about Mary Kay Letourneau, now meet another teacher convicted for having sexual affair with her teenage student. Had his baby too. In her first live interview, former high school math teacher, Heather Ingram, speaks out, sharing intimate and shocking details of how a flirtation turned into an all-out lust that led to public disgrace and thoughts of suicide.

All next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: A little background on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Joining us from Vancouver is Heather Ingram, former high school teacher who had a sexual affair with a 17-year-old student. She was convicted of sexually exploiting a minor. She's the author of a new book "Risking It All: My Student, My Lover, My Story."

There you see its cover. She was a 29-year-old math and accounting teacher. A good girl, exemplary record, longtime live-in boyfriend, and she had an affair with a 17-year-old student with spotty grades, and a tendency toward delinquency. They had a sexual affair. And in the spring of 2000 she was convicted of the sexual exploitation of a minor and sentenced to 10 months house arrest. You changed the name of the boy. You call him Troy in the book.

Why, Heather?

HEATHER INGRAM, CONVICTED OF HAVING AFFAIR WITH TEENAGE STUDENT: At the time there was a publication ban, because at the time of the affair, he was 17 1/2, the legal age for publication would have been 18.

KING: I see. But now you've discussed his name?

His name was Dusty, right?

INGRAM: That's correct. He actually went to court to have the publication ban lifted, because he felt he wasn't a victim, and wanted, you know, me to be able to use his name, as well as him to be able to use his name.

KING: So when we read in the book of Troy, we're talking about Dusty, they are one and the same? INGRAM: That's correct.

KING: All right. How -- I guess the obvious is, how'd this start?

What happened?

INGRAM: It started about a year prior to the actual relationship starting, he showed up in my class. I remember the day we met. In the book I talk about how I saw him in the hallway, and I did a double-take right away. He was beautiful, very attractive person. He had started as a flirtation. He would come to my classroom and lean in the doorway and blow me kisses or whistle at me in the hallway. Or just brush my shoulder as he was walking by. Fairly, you know, inappropriate but fairly innocent stuff. That went on for about a year.

KING: And at the same time you were living with someone and having a relationship of eleven years, right?

INGRAM: That's right. I met my ex-partner when I was 17 and we'd lived together for six years at that point.

KING: You're no longer with him, right?

INGRAM: That's correct.

KING: Why did you write this Heather?

INGRAM: I wrote the book because the experience that I had going through it, I didn't even know it was a scandal until I read it in the papers. The experience, it was presented in the media was so different than the experience as it was experienced for me, in my heart, and in my day-to-day life. That that contrast prompted me to -- well, first of all to start writing a journal. And then to take some of that journal writing and make it a book.

KING: So in other words, are you saying you thought there was nothing wrong?

INGRAM: No, I'm not saying I thought there was nothing wrong. I'm saying by the time I was under house arrest, with my life in tatters all around me, Dusty was living with me at that point. We had had a relationship for 10 months as teacher/student, but then two years after that it continued. So by that point, it was in some respects normal for us.

KING: So how, then, did the charges even come up, if you'd gone on to have a life together, and he was only under 18 for six months of it, right?

INGRAM: That's correct. I actually didn't know this, but apparently you can be charged, even if the victim denies that there is a crime. He and his family were extremely supportive of the relationship. And they still prosecuted me. I pled guilty to avoid further destruction to my life and to my family's life. KING: Now you were stripped of your teaching license, right?

INGRAM: That's correct.

KING: Convicted of being a sex offender.

INGRAM: That's right.

KING: And now have a 9-month-old son by, Troy?


KING: And where is Troy now?

INGRAM: He is living in Seashell (ph). We're not together at this moment. So he's got a girlfriend, and he's doing, I guess, what 23-year-old guys do. He's trying out different things in his life.

KING: And what is Heather doing?

Are you seeing anyone?

What is your life like?

INGRAM: I'm on maternity leave from the job that I've held for four years, which is as an office manager and a bookkeeper. So I'm really focused on looking after my son. I'm trying to take every moment of joy I can with him. I tutor math. I'm still a very busy tutor and I'm also working on another book.


INGRAM: I would like to -- I've been working on a prequel to "Risking It All." Particularly focusing on some of my early experiences in my family, with mothering, and then also my experiences now, with mothering, because that's really what's the most prominent in my life right now.

KING: Because you do touch in the book on what your background was like and your childhood, right?

INGRAM: Yes, that's right.

KING: When you say you knew it was wrong, was this then sort of a compulsion?

I mean 29 to 17 -- you had to say, I must feel a little weird.

INGRAM: It absolutely felt weird. For the whole of the 10 months that I was his teacher, and he was my student, there was this extreme cognitive dissidents going on. I mean, there was a lot of conflict for me. Every day that I walked into that school there was a conflict. Because I knew it was wrong. I did not feel that I was exploiting him. But I knew as a professional, as a teacher, I was betraying my profession. And that did not sit well with me.

KING: Did he not say that he initiated it?

INGRAM: Yes. Yes. He was very open.

KING: And he has said that, right?

INGRAM: Every -- there's never been -- even in the court case, though, there was never any consideration that this might have been nonconsensual. It was always acknowledged to be a consensual relationship.

KING: How did it begin, Heather?

How was the first time you were together?

How did that work out?

It had to feel funny, teacher, student. You have someone living at home with you. Where did you go? What did you do?

INGRAM: The first time he came to my house with two friends. I describe it in the book as the beginning of my downfall. They came in. It was all planned. They had planned it from the beginning. They brought movies and video games, and we basically played. I could justify it to myself step by step by going well, I'm not doing anything too bad by allowing them into my house. Well, I'm just watching a movie. You know, that's not too bad. But by the end of the night, his friends left and left him stranded there, and he definitely made his move, at which point I -- I allowed him to do that.

KING: And where was your boyfriend?

INGRAM: He was away for the weekend.

KING: Did you fall in love with him?

INGRAM: Did I fall in love with, Dusty?

KING: Yes.

INGRAM: Yes. I'm still in love with Dusty.

KING: Still am?


KING: Dusty was on Oprah's show, and let's just hear a quick clip of that.


OPRAH WINFREY, HOST "OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": OK. So you went after the teacher.


WINFREY: You went after the teacher and you won?

DICKESON: Apparently, yes.

WINFREY: You won. You won. And did you know what you were doing?

DICKESON: Well, yes. I didn't know it was going to escalate to this kind of level. But, at first I -- it was more sexual.

WINFREY: Mm-hmm.

DICKESON: I knew what I was doing.


KING: Did you watch that show?


KING: How did it feel?

INGRAM: I hate watching myself on TV.

KING: How did it feel to have him -- to be this open about something?

One could say, why write a book, Heather? Why go on television? Why not just raise your child, live a life, meet someone, go on with it?

INGRAM: It's -- it's a good question. The book is me. It is my heart ripped open, poured out on that page, and I figured that maybe there's somebody else out there, some other woman who's made a colossal error in judgment, professional error in judgment, for love. That was -- that really is what the book to me is about. It is my whole heart. And what does it feel like to be on Oprah and have him be so open?

Well, we have nothing to hide anymore. There's no -- I don't ever want to live my life hiding anything. He was there holding my hand when my child was born. That is probably the most intimate thing two people can share.

KING: Why'd you break up?

INGRAM: He's -- it's the age difference. He's got other things to go accomplish. And I'm at a stage in my life where I so just want to be settled down, and raising my child that we need different things at this time.

KING: Our guest is Heather Ingram. The book is "Risking It All: My Student, My Lover, My Story."

We'll be taking calls for Heather. And later we'll be joined by Dr. Robi Ludwig, the psychotherapist who's appeared on this program many times to get their thoughts and input on this. We'll be right back.


INGRAM: I've learned a lot about myself. And I've learned a lot about our society as a result of this experience. And I have a stronger family, I am a stronger person, and I have a stronger relationship because of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The relationship between teacher and student has divided this tiny sunshine coast community. The teenage boy maintains he is not a victim. And now lives with his former teacher. As for Ingram, she quit her job, and her teaching career is in jeopardy.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dickeson is hoping to gain some notoriety to help boost his music career. So he went to court to get a media ban on his name lifted.

DICKESON: She knew that -- don't want to hook up with your student, but you you know, I pushed so hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A media ban that was imposed three years ago, after his 29-year-old high school teacher, Heather Ingram, was convicted of having an affair with the then-17-year-old.


KING: We're back with Heather Ingram. You think it's a stretch to compare you to Mary LeTourneau.

INGRAM: She was convicted of having a sexual relationship with somebody who was 12 years old. And that is illegal in any context. Dusty was 5 months shy of being 18. If we'd met in a grocery store it would have been legal.

KING: You mean if it were not in school?

INGRAM: That's correct.

KING: And in some states, isn't adult 17?

INGRAM: I believe.

KING: Yes. So the fact that it was in school -- now since you started living with him after that.


KING: Why did it even come up? Who brought it up? Who brought the charge? Who made a deal of it? INGRAM: The crown prosecutor. Our legal system. Was the -- the body responsible for laying a charge. He came to court with me.

KING: And did someone come to him and say this happened and file a charge against her?

INGRAM: No. You know, there was no need. Because, everybody knew, he was very public about wanting to be with me. So, he refused to -- it's one of the only cases I believe in Canada where the victim refused to file a victim impact statement.

KING: I know. But the guy who did file against you, the prosecutor.


KING: After all this time, why did he do it?

INGRAM: Because they had enough evidence to find me guilty, I guess.

KING: Did you ever think, during this, I'm making a mistake here?

INGRAM: I knew it was a mistake. I knew that I was thinking with my heart and not my head. I wish in retrospect I could have been level-headed and clear and just waited. Because waiting that amount of time, five months for him to be legal and then ten months, at that point, that was when he actually left school, it seems like such a short time. But at the time, it felt like a lifetime. And it was a very immediate thing.

KING: How did your boyfriend react?

INGRAM: I told him as soon as I -- he was one of the first people I told. And I told him as soon as I realized that I was falling in love with Dusty. Because it wasn't fair to him. And I felt strong -- I mean I care about him still, to this day.

So, he reacted amazingly, actually. He wanted to work things out. He tried to understand.

KING: Did it end the relationship right away?

INGRAM: Yes. Within 2 months I had moved out.

KING: How did you parents -- are your parents living?


KING: How did they react?

INGRAM: My dad was disappointed, shocked and then supportive. My mom and her husband were also just -- we're there for you, we're behind you 100 percent. It was horrible for them. But they were there for me. KING: You had a rough childhood, right? You write your mother has bipolar?

INGRAM: That's correct.

KING: So what was it like for you? Were you an only child?

INGRAM: No. I have a younger sister. It was just uncertain. Compared to many people with rough childhoods, you know, I don't consider that I had it that rough, because whatever you think, whatever is normal when you're a kid is normal. It's just the way you grow up. She just wasn't around a lot.

KING: Did you have early romantic relationships?

INGRAM: My first boyfriend when I was 15 lasted till I was 17, at which point I met Mark in the book and I was with him ever since.

KING: Heather, when you had these doubts, when you said this might be wrong, why not wait the five months? Why didn't you say -- in retrospect, that night when he's over there with his friends, listen, I think I'm falling for you. You're five months away from being 18, bide some time here.

INGRAM: I tried to do that. I actually did say that a number of times. I just -- my actions didn't follow my words. And I think it was -- I analogize it to being thirsty and saying well I'll just wait for some water. I'll just wait. The real answer is that I was so unhappy at that time that Dusty was a place where I found relief from that unhappiness.

KING: And Dusty made you happy?


KING: Did you at all say to yourself, why am I -- why am I in this? Did you try to explain to yourself, you're a very bright woman, why am I attracted to someone 12 years younger who is still a minor, legally?

INGRAM: I, to this day, still think about it. The obvious answer is that I was a good girl my whole life. I didn't experience any of the things that teenagers do. I didn't rebel. I was busy getting straight As and winning scholarships. In fact, I was in university at 17. Getting straight As there.

So, the -- you know, I didn't go and drink and party and, you know, experience any of that type of thing when I was younger. I assume that that's probably why I felt like I had to do a crash course in it at 29.

KING: And this began, obviously with lust, right?

INGRAM: Sure. It was attraction. Yes.

KING: Did it turn to love quickly? INGRAM: Yes. By the next month, by Valentine's Day, he had given me a gold necklace. I'd given him a gold bracelet. We were telling each other that we loved each other, yes.

KING: OK. Then, explain what you had in common.

INGRAM: We actually -- I think we share a sense of humor. We tend to find the same things funny. We tend to like doing things that are just low-key and casual like going for a drive or going for a walk, or picking up shells on the beach. Things like that.

It was a very big contrast to my life with Mark, which was a lot about striving and achieving and putting money away for the future. A lot of my life at that point was living for the future. And I really wanted something that felt good in the present tense.

KING: Is he a good father?

INGRAM: He is a very loving father. Absolutely.

KING: He sees his son a lot?

INGRAM: Yes, he does.

KING: Do you know his girlfriend?


KING: Does she know that you still love him?


KING: How does all that work?

INGRAM: Awkwardly.

KING: Like he comes over -- does he come over with his girlfriend to see his son?


KING: So that when he sees his son he's alone with his son?

INGRAM: That's correct, yes.

KING: If you still have the same feelings for him, have you been tempted since?

INGRAM: I have -- and every day I tell myself this and I believe it to be true, that I have to have ultimate respect for what he wants for his own life, because it is his own life. It's not mine. And that's what I would want other people to give me.

KING: Of course.

And if there were any hedge in that you'd make a move back to him?

INGRAM: There -- there would have to be some things worked out first. I'm not just sitting around waiting for him. At the same time, I've made my feelings clear and I stand by them.

KING: Does he plan to marry this girl he's with?

INGRAM: I don't know.

KING: We'll take a break and come back. We'll take some phone calls. And then Doctor Ludwig will join us. The book is "Risking It All: My Student, My Lover, My Story." And this is Heather Ingram's first appearance live television. And we'll go to some calls right after this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 30-year-old Heather Ingram and her teenage lover arrive arm in arm at Seashell Provincial Court. Both are saying little.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just wanted to let you know that there will be no statement prior, but once sentencing is done they may or may not choose to make a statement afterwards.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The accounting teacher pled guilty to having sex with the teenage boy while he was an underage student in one of her classes. Because Ingram was in a position of authority, and the boy was only 17, she was charged with sexual exploitation.



KING: We're back with, Heather Ingram. The book is "Risking It All: My student, My Lover, My Story."

Let's take a few calls for Heather.

Hagerstown, Maryland, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. I'm a huge fan of yours. I watch you every night.

KING: Thank you. What's your question?

CALLER: OK, my question, Heather, I heard you say that you still work with children. Tutoring, and I was just wondering how the parents feel about you working with their children.

INGRAM: I really don't ever advertise my services. It's all through word of mouth. The parents who trust me enough to work with their children, I will never undervalue that privilege. I'm very grateful that they do trust me. And I hope that they feel that they're getting quality instruction for their children.

KING: Do you tutor teenagers?

INGRAM: Yes, and adults, both.

KING: Have you found yourself romantically inclined toward other young people?

INGRAM: Not since this relationship, no.


Had you ever found yourself romantically inclined before, Dusty?

INGRAM: Before Dusty I was with someone who was four years older than me.

KING: I know that.

INGRAM: And stayed with that person for the whole time.

KING: So you never had another experience like this?

INGRAM: There was...

KING: I'm sorry, go ahead.

INGRAM: In my book I describe another relationship that took place about six months after Dusty, and I got together with one of his friends. That was part of me taking apart my entire life at that point. I was just out for, I don't know, something to feel better. But, since then, no.

KING: And he was a young boy too?

INGRAM: He was a friend of Dusty's.

KING: Same age?

INGRAM: A little older.

KING: Did you do any jail time?

INGRAM: I served 10 months of a conditional sentence, which is basically full house arrest. I was only allowed to leave my house to go to work, and that was it.

KING: But never in a prison?

INGRAM: Correct.

KING: What kind of work?

INGRAM: I was bookkeeper and office manager for four years after I was a teacher.

KING: We go to Phoenix, Arizona, for Heather Ingram. Hello.

CALLER: Oh, yes, I was -- hi Heather and Larry.



CALLER: I was asking because, I mean you guys didn't obviously hang out at the same places, I was wondering when you first saw him how you felt.

And how you approached the whole situation?

KING: Yes, your feelings.

CALLER: Yes, what your feelings were.

KING: The beginning of it all.

CALLER: And how you guys perceived each other.

INGRAM: I felt like I was falling in love. Like it was anybody else. That was the paradox of the whole thing, was that intellectually I knew I was his teacher, he was my student. And at the same time a relationship is a relationship. I mean, those feelings are the same, whether somebody's, you know, 11 1/2 years younger than you or 20-years-older than you.

KING: So you never walked around saying, why am I in love with this person?

INGRAM: No. It just seemed to be very natural, actually.

KING: Victorville, California, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Yes, go ahead.

CALLER: I wanted to ask, outside of your son at this point in retrospect, do you feel that it was worth it?

KING: Good question.

INGRAM: Hard question. I have a lot of regrets, and at the same time I wouldn't be the same person I am. I'm so much stronger and so much more -- I just know who I am so much better. So I have to say yes, ultimately it was worth it.

KING: Did he -- did he end the relationship?

Did Dusty end it?

INGRAM: Yes. Yes.

KING: So you were -- because he wanted -- he had the age difference and he wanted to explore new things. INGRAM: We had been together for three years at that point. I mean, when you're that young, that's a significant amount of time. I think he needed other things, yes.

KING: Ottawa, Ontario. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Has any thought been given to challenging the constitutionality of this particular law?

Because, it really denies to the 17-year-old his fundamental rights and his right of privacy. And if the law is unconstitutional then you can get your teaching job back.

INGRAM: I mean, you know, the law exists for a good reason. I actually don't take issue with the law per se. Simply because, you know, it's there to protect children, and that's a good thing. There is some discretion in sentencing. And it was -- it was very interesting, because of the cases that were used when they sentenced me were men. They were 50-something year-old men with 14, 15 and 16- year-old girls. That ended up being the people that -- or the way it was judged.

KING: And did those men generally do jail time?

INGRAM: You know, it varied. The -- these are all cases where it's past the legal age of consent. Simply the issue is that there's a person in a position of authority who presumably would have a sexual influence over, right, a young person. Some of them were given a fine, and that was it. Some of them did do jail time. But often it was simply, it was something less than what I served.

KING: We'll take a break, come back. We'll be taking more phone calls and we'll have Dr. Robi Ludwig, the famous psychotherapist from New York join us, as well. Don't go away.


GROUP: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Teacher scandal, nothing in the world that I can't handle

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Three years ago a provincial court judge said Dustin Dickeson was the victim of sexual exploitation. But now, it's Dustin who says he wants to do some exploiting.

DICKESON: Hopefully get a CD contract, and hopefully, get a label and actually start making some cash.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For nine months the affair between Heather Ingram and her teenage student continued. The boy's mother knew. Ingram's common-law husband knew and so did students. But nobody told authorities. Ingram finally confessed to the principal of Chatelech High School last October after another teacher threatened to expose her. Ingram has been sentenced to a ten-month conditional term, meaning no jail time.


KING: We're back. A couple of quick program notes. This Saturday night we'll repeat our interview of last week with President Bush and Laura Bush, as we approach the Republican National Convention. We'll be in New York all next week with a live show Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern. And then two shows nightly during the convention at 9:00 Eastern, and midnight. Normally midnight it's a repeat of LARRY KING LIVE from 9:00. Next week as we did with the Democrats, there will be two live shows nightly Monday through Thursday night.

Our guest is Heather Ingram, her book is "Risking It All: My Student, My Lover, My Story." And joining us now from New York is the noted psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig. Before we bring Dr. Ludwig in, there's one thing I wanted to cover further with Heather. You did say on the Oprah show, didn't you, Heather, that one of the things that attracted you was that -- that he was very popular in school, and that you were a little flattered that he was, like, you know, boy about town, so to speak, in school?

INGRAM: He was exactly the kind of guy that would never have looked at me when I was in high school. It was the straight-A student and not the popular one.

KING: You were the nerdish?

INGRAM: A little bit.

KING: But you write, "with Dusty I felt sexual, and desirable. I got to experience freedom to try things I never tried before. And permission to explore being a teenager which I found irresistible." What do you mean? You explored being a teenager?

INGRAM: I had never even tried a cigarette. I had never been to a party with kids around me drinking. None of that stuff. I had -- I'd never played a video game. It was just an entirely different world to me. And as sad as that sounds, I didn't get to experience it when I was younger, and I suppose that's why I needed to do it then.

KING: And were not experiencing anything with your boyfriend of that kind?

INGRAM: We were extremely responsible professional couple. He was an engineer and I obviously was a teacher. We were renovating a house, a lot of our time and energy went into doing that. That was our life.

KING: Was Dusty more experienced than you?

INGRAM: In some respects, he was much more experienced than me, yes. KING: Sexually, I mean.

INGRAM: In terms of number of partners, yes.

KING: Dr. Ludwig joins us from New York. First your overall thoughts on what you've seen. And then you can join in, question as well. What do you make of this?

DR. ROBI LUDWIG, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: Well, I'm not surprised. In fact, you know, when teachers, especially when they're young, sometimes there's not a great age difference between a young teacher and their student. And there are a lot of erotic feelings that go on. So, in part, it's normal. What's not normal is that every teacher obviously doesn't do what Heather did.

What's interesting, is that organizationally, teachers are not prepared to know how to deal with these feelings like therapists are. You know, that, you know, adolescents are very sexual and seductive, and there's a lot of hormones in the air. And how do you deal with a student that comes on to you? But this is something that should be instituted on an ongoing basis, with supervision, so teachers know that this will, in fact happen. That they might feel attracted to students and vice versa. And how do you handle it so it's not detrimental to the teacher/student relationship?

KING: Does a male teacher with a female student who might come on with him face the same problems?

LUDWIG: Absolutely. And very often adolescents don't know that they're being seductive. They have hormones. The sex is just in the air. You can see it. You can taste it. You can smell it. And very often they don't know that they're sending off the signals that they're sending. And if a person isn't fully grounded in their own life, it can be very tempted. Especially if someone hasn't really experienced what they wanted to experience in the high school adolescent arena. It's very tempting.

KING: Heather, but this boy, Dusty, he knew what he was doing. He was initially the aggressor, correct?

INGRAM: That is correct. Although I fully agree that as teachers we're not prepared to deal with that. That topic is almost verboten. It's never mentioned.

KING: How would they be prepared, Dr. Ludwig? What, would you have classes?

LUDWIG: Well, they would have classes and ongoing educational programs. And just to bring it out into the open not just mention it after the fact. Hey, especially for young teachers, there's a lot of sexuality in the air. It might be very tempting. And this is why we need to understand it. Let's look at a teacher's blind spots. Let's look at a teacher's unfinished business and how that can impact the student/teacher relationship.

INGRAM: I might add at this point that it's actually -- we were informed that if we revealed anything to a colleague or to another professional counselor, they were obligated to report.

LUDWIG: Even a fantasy, though? I would think that teachers should be encouraged to talk about it, because if you're talking about it, and working with a seasoned professional, then a teacher might be less likely to act it out. If you're in therapy and you're learning healthy ways to deal with unmet personal needs, so that you're not meeting it within the organization, and with a student who might be very willing to give attention to a teacher in a way that perhaps other adults outside of the educational system might not be able to do. I would think that that's necessary in terms of stopping certain people from engaging in this type of tempting behavior.

KING: Heather, would you advise a teacher who might be watching tonight, male or female who has an attraction toward a student, to seek some guidance?

INGRAM: I would advise that, actually. I mean, I would definitely say to that person, that teacher out there, you know, try and get your stuff figured out. Try and get your life figured out because it's always about whatever is going on inside you, really. That's where the need is coming from.

KING: Dr. Ludwig, do you think there's a lot of more of this than we know about? Not necessarily the physical culmination, but a lot more of the flirtation, a lot more of that going on in classrooms?

LUDWIG: Oh, yes. I mean I even remember when I was in high school, a teacher that was flirting with a very sexy student. Now it didn't go anywhere. But I think it's very normal, and that we need to know that it's normal and find a way to help people deal with it so that it's not harmful to the teacher, who could ruin a whole career and be very self-destructive. And to a student, which often, you know, it's a turning point in their lives. And studies show that students who get involved in these kind of illicit affairs sometimes drop out, because they're confused or they feel that they weren't properly taken care of.

KING: Is the Letourneau story a completely different one?

LUDWIG: You know, from what I've read about Mary Kay Letourneau, she seems to have more mood disorders where she's almost psychotic. She seems out of touch with reality. That she's in a fantasy world. It does seem different. And I think what -- the more we study this, we'll understand that each situation might be different. Like in Heather's case, she didn't have a chance to experience her adolescence in a normal kind of way. So emotionally, she might have felt more in sync with Dusty than men her own age and hence a romantic affair happened.

KING: You buy that, Heather?

INGRAM: I do buy that, actually. I think that's exactly what happened.

KING: So the fact that she was an A-student and always doing the right things and proper never got her a chance to experience other facets of teenagehood?

LUDWIG: Yes. And I mean I haven't read about her background. But perhaps having a mother who was mentally ill, perhaps she was parentified and didn't have the opportunity to be a rebellious teenage, a time when you're allowed to be rebellious without there being too many consequences. And it's also a way to make a statement, now look at me. See what I had to do in order to get my needs met. But, there, you know, clearly, you know, it's very seductive when someone's giving you attention, and you're around teenagers who make you feel alive. It's a very alive feeling to be around young ones.

KING: Are you saying, Robi, that rebelliousness is good?

LUDWIG: Yes, I think people need to rebel. And you need to rebel at the right moment in time. And when you're a child, an adolescent, that's probably a better time to rebel than when you're a professional when there are certain ethical rules and laws that you are bounded by.

KING: Heather, how did Dusty's parents handle this?

INGRAM: His mother, who is the person that is his primary parent, was -- she's one of my best friends right now. She's a fabulous person. And when she found out about the relationship, Dusty disclosed that to her, she supportive. I was horrified. He said, well, I'm sure she'll be fine with it. And she was. I think her primary concern was for me, and the professional consequences. I mean, we didn't know at that point that there were going to be criminal consequences. But the professional consequences were certainly daunting.

KING: What about his dad?

INGRAM: His dad left when he was 6 months old.

KING: And you and his mother are now friends?

INGRAM: We are. She's -- she's about the world's best grandmother.

KING: Dr. Ludwig, how do you explain that?

LUDWIG: Gosh, that's -- that's a tough one. The only thing that I can think of is that there are parallels between Dusty and his mother, and Dusty and Heather. That he was very used to playing kind of an equal role with somebody who was much older, and his senior, and he didn't really have an opportunity, in a way, to be a child. So it was very familiar to him. That's the way I would explain it.

KING: You buy that, Heather?

INGRAM: To some degree. I also just think that, in some cases, I mean, he's a unique person. I'm unique and so is she.

KING: Obviously. We'll take a break and come back with more phone calls for Dr. Ludwig, who will remain with us, and Heather Ingram, the author of "Risking It All: My Student, My Lover, My Story." Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: 30-year-old Heather Ingram and her 18- year-old boyfriend and former student arrive at the courthouse. It's sentencing day for Ingram on a conviction of sexual exploitation. The judge handed Ingram a 10-month conditional sentence. She can leave home only to get to her office job, to keep legal or health appointments. Ingram must also perform 100 hours of community service, and she'll be on probation for a year after she serves her full sentence.



KING: We're back with Heather Ingram. She's in Vancouver. Joining us in New York is Dr. Robi Ludwig the psychotherapist. Before we take some more phone calls, you did, did you not, Heather, attempt suicide?

INGRAM: I came close to that. I certainly was suicidal for a period of time, yes.

KING: When was that period of time? And what were you thinking?

INGRAM: The period of time was just when I confessed to my principal and I knew at that point that I was going to lose my job. I also knew that I was going to have to come forward and confess to my family, who were going to be incredibly disappointed with me, and that it was going to become public knowledge.

KING: So you actually made plans, or seriously thought about taking your life?

INGRAM: I walked around with a razor blade that Dusty took away from me.

KING: Do you think if he hadn't been there you might have?

INGRAM: I like to think that I would have been strong enough not to. I think it was more of an escape fantasy. If I need to escape I have an option type of thinking. But I wasn't thinking clearly at that point.

KING: Why did you choose to write so explicitly about the relationship?

INGRAM: Again, because that was the -- that was my experience. But that's not what got portrayed in the media. I was a sexual offender, and exploiting this person. And that's not what it was about for me. It was actually -- I mean it may have begun as something to do with sex, but it quickly became a relationship. And that relationship has dramatically affected who I am so has the media attention affected who I am. Losing my teaching career, the most important thing in my life, really professionally, and it's gone. And that has affected my life a lot, too.

KING: So there were many times you wouldn't have sex? You'd just be together as a couple?

INGRAM: Absolutely. And after awhile for us, just walking down the street together became quite a treat. Because we couldn't do it for so long.

KING: Tampa, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry. My question for Ms. Ingram and Ms. Ludwig is, with only ten months house arrest, seemingly no remorse, a book deal and possible future movie of the week, what advice would you have for parents to protect their children from teachers who think a relationship is just a relationship when it truly does violate the boundaries between a teacher and student?

KING: Heather?

INGRAM: I would say to that, at what point do you decide that it was really a relationship? It's 5 1/2 years ago and we still have feelings for each other. We're parents of a child. And frankly the teacher/student aspect of it is basically a dim memory.

KING: Robi?

LUDWIG: The parents should be very aware, and communicate with their children so they know what's going on in their lives. And if they see a relationship, that's potentially harmful, get involved. And stop it. At least stop it from being illicit.

KING: Winnipeg, Manitoba, hello.

CALLER: Why did the courts not send you to real jail? And if he was a man he would be sent to jail. And another question is, why did you risk your career for a teenager? Because there's a shortage of excellent teachers in Canada.

KING: A Canadian question.

INGRAM: It's actually not true that if I was a man I would have been sent to real jail. The sentencing that was applied to me was based on male offenders. So, there's no inconsistency there. House arrest was because it costs Canadian taxpayers more money to keep someone in jail, who could otherwise be employed. And I was not considered a risk to society, therefore I was allowed to keep my job.

KING: Did you have to wear a wrist thing or something?

INGRAM: No. No. The police would come to my house and randomly check up on me.

KING: I see. And what about shortage of teachers? Why risk it in a country shortage of good teachers?

INGRAM: You know, that's a decision I regret. I have no answer except to say I regret that decision.

KING: Evansville, Indiana. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. Love the show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: I just want to ask Heather if she could be supportive of one of her children at the age of 17, if they were involved with someone 12 years their senior?

KING: Heather?

INGRAM: You know, the age difference I have no problem with. It's basically who the people are. And if my son was courageous enough to come forward and talk to me about a relationship that he felt strongly about, I hope I would be as open and supportive as Dusty's mom was to me.

KING: Dr. Ludwig, you think a 17 and a 29-year-old can lead a happy life together?

LUDWIG: It's probably not realistic, especially under the circumstances. I mean, very often teacher/student relationships is considered organizational incest. But certainly very successful relationships can happen when there's a significant age difference. But they have to be adults and have enough history under their belt in order to make a decision that's good for their lives.

KING: Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry. How are you today?

KING: Fine.

CALLER: I'm pretty shocked that there's even allowed to be a program -- if this were a man, I would like Dr. Ludwig to explain the reasons given, like as far as relationships being explained. Isn't that pretty typical in sex offenders that are male also do the same thing? Don't get on Larry King, don't get book deals? And I mean, it's just disgusting that this is allowed just because the genders are opposite. Don't you think?

LUDWIG: Well, it's an interesting point. It is true, when this happens, and it's a woman, it just tends to get more media attention. The women are more notorious. I'm not sure if it's because we don't see it as often as we do with men or it's just more shocking when women do something that we're not used to. But you're absolutely right, when women engage in these kind of relationships, it gets more attention. It's just the way it is.

KING: We'll take a break and be back with some more moments with Heather Ingram and Dr. Robi Ludwig. Heather's book is "Risking It All," the title "My Student, My lover, My story." Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're back with Heather Ingram and in New York Dr. Robi Ludwig.

London, Ontario. Hello.

CALLER: Hi, this question is for, Heather. I was just wondering. I've been in this kind of relationship but on Dusty's side.

Do you find it hard with all the media coverage you're getting, because the media labels you, you know, as this scandal and everything else. With the book and everything else do you fear that the public will still feel that this is wrong?

KING: Before she answers, what do you mean on Dusty's side ma'am?

CALLER: I was part of a relationship with a man older than -- much older than me.

KING: Oh, I see.

CALLER: But because of Canadian law, it was not illegal because he was not a teacher of mine.

KING: I see. You were how old at the time?

CALLER: I was 16.

KING: And he was?

CALLER: He was in his 40s.

KING: OK, Heather.

INGRAM: It's -- I mean the media scrutiny intensifies everything. It is the most difficult thing to carry on what is already a difficult situation with an age difference and a teacher/student precedent, with the scrutiny of the media. There's -- I mean, I think that pressure is part of the reason it fell apart.

KING: There's no training in dealing with that, is there, Robi?

LUDWIG: No. I mean, you know, it's interesting. What you want to make sure is that the person has life history to make a choice that's good for themselves. And it's hard to identify at what age that happens. So we rely on the laws to help us do that. And a 16- year-old can look like an adult or a child, depending on that 16-year- old. So that even complicates the situation further.

KING: Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Heather...

KING: Go ahead, she can hear you.

CALLER: Heather. Yes. Yes. You were an older, experienced woman, why didn't you use birth control?

INGRAM: I did not become pregnant when I was Dusty's teacher. We had our child about four years after that happened.

KING: But he still was only 20, 21, right? Twenty-one and half?

INGRAM: He's 22 when Phoenix, my son, was born.

KING: Did you think that he might be too young to be a father?

INGRAM: Yes. Yes. At the same time, it was something that happened. And we were both pretty happy about it.

KING: Anderson, Indiana, hello.

CALLER: Heather, did the judge order you to have any counseling of any kind -- for your parole, and if not, have you sought counseling on your own?

INGRAM: I actually sought private counseling, because according to the way it works in Canada, because I was not deemed a dangerous offender, I didn't qualify for funded counseling. I actually sought it on my own. And I definitely needed it to cope with everything that was going on at that time.

KING: Has it helped you?

INGRAM: Absolutely. That's -- that's my reward for this. Is that I know myself better and I'm so much more grounded and sane than I was before.

KING: Dr. Ludwig, this is preventable, do you think?

LUDWIG: What, a relationship with a student?

KING: Yes.

LUDWIG: Yes. But, again, we need to institute policies, and education, in order to reduce the likelihood of this happening on a frequent basis. Of course, there are always going to be people that slip through the cracks, and will have these kinds of relationships. But it absolutely can be reduced.

KING: Heather, you looking forward to meeting someone, getting involved again and getting married?

INGRAM: I -- I have no plans about that, actually, because I'm so concerned with being a mother right now, that whatever comes along, comes along. I'm really just focused on being a good mom.

KING: Thanks for being with us, Heather.

INGRAM: Thank you.

KING: And thank you, Dr. Ludwig for your input.

LUDWIG: Thank you.

KING: Heather's book is "Risking It All: My Student, My Lover, My Story."

I'll be back in a couple minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: You ever watch the show "Fear Factor"?

No, it's not about Aaron Brown, it's about people who do nutty things. I liked that. That was funny. They're going to be here tomorrow night, "Fear Factor" folk."

And we're going to do "Fear Factor" folk and I'm going to look over there.

But right now I'm going to look straight ahead because it's NEWSNIGHT time with a man no one fears, but everyone respects, the man of renowned, Aaron Brown.

AARON BROWN: You're going to eat a cockroach or something tomorrow night? Yikes.

KING: Good luck.

BROWN: Thank you sir. "Fear Factor," indeed.


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