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September 10, 2009

“Creative and inspired” Miramonte High English teacher arrested on charges of having sex with former student

Mark Christopher Litton, an English teacher at Miramonte High, was taken into custody at about 1 p.m. at Miramonte High in Orinda. He was arrested on suspicion of having unlawful sexual relations with an under-aged former student.

Litton, 33, of Walnut Creek, was teaching honors and AP English this semester at Miramonte, according to the school’s Blackboard site.

Perhaps too prophetically, for his AP English class, it looks like Litton was having students this week read existentialist Jean Paul Sartre’s play No Exit. It's about a man who finds himself led into a room that could be hell.

For homework due Wednesday, students were asked to “describe your own worst “hell”: “Where would the worst place to spend eternity? What would that be the worst? What personal experiences inform this hell?”

I suppose Litton is in his own worst hell right now, having been booked into County Jail in Martinez, with bail set at $250,000. And his career and reputation potentially in ruins.

From various testimonials I could find, including some of the anonymous postings on the Rate My Teacher website, it sounds like he loves poetry, could be something of a character, made jokes that students either loved or hated, was very bright, and could be very “cool”—or “strange"—and that he could really connect with some students.

One former student, who was interviewed by the Orinda News after graduating in 2007, described Litton, his AP English teacher, as “one of the most my influential teachers. He taught me how to be a better critical thinker and a better writer. He’s absolutely professional, but I also consider him a friend.”

A parent, posting in March 2009 on the advice section of the Berkeley Parents Network, says her son went to Miramonte in Orinda his freshman year and became very depressed because the kids were “cliquish and cruel.” The only bright spot, this parent said, was his son’s English class because the teacher, Mr. Litton, “was creative and inspired.”

Acalanes district officials had no comment about Litton's arrest, which looks like it took place during fifth period. It will be interesting to see how this case unfolds, and what it reveals about this teacher, who was working in one of the Bay Area's top-ranked public high schools.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

What happened to "innocent until proven guilty!" Not only was it not necessary to arrest him at school in front of his students but to also have such a high bail amount. I doubt he is a high risk! If there is truth to this there is probably a good chance it was consensual. There should be consequences and I am sure there will be. But what about the students at Miramonte who break the law, they don't always face consequences, do they?

MickeyMartin said...

There is nothing consensual about statutory rape. I understand innocent until proven guilty, but comparing the actions of an authority figure responsible for educating children, with the "crimes" of students at the school is truly irrelevant. If there is truth to this then it is illegal, immoral, and unacceptable in any sense. $250,000 is about par for the course on a charge of sex crimes, as the offender is "high risk" just by the nature of the charges, as people flee these situations all of the time due to fear and humiliation. As a father, I can not defend these actions in any way if there is any truth to it at all.

Anonymous said...

statuatory rape is a weird thing. of course sex with a 10 year old is not ok.
what about someone who is turning 18 the next day? is it "immoral, and unacceptable" to have sex with them today, while tomorrow it would be ok?

i aint defending this school teacher, im just saying that it sucks that the law uses an arbitrary number (the age of 18) instead of judging things on a case by case basis.

i had sex when i was 17 with a 16 year old girl. it was illegal. but it was consensual. neither one of us regrets it.
and yes, that is different than a 33 year old having sex with a 17 year old.

my point is not that i'm ok with what happened. i dont know what happened.
my point is that we (society) should look at the details of these sorts of cases, not at the arbitrary number of 18. how mature were the people involved? what were the power dynamics of the relationship? etc.
some people under 18 are perfectly able to deal with sex. some people over 18 are not.

Soccer Mom said...

I remember when I was a student in this Acalanes school district that there was a youngish teacher, and the rumor was that he was involved with a student who was known to be his, for want of a better word, pet. She was always hanging around his class, and helping him out with tasks. She almost acted like his assistant. When I think about her, she reminds me of the hyper perky, efficient, ambitious character played by Reese WItherspoon in the movie, Election. I'd have to check with some old school pals and maybe a former teacher or two, but, again, there was the rumor that they may have "come out" about their relationship after she graduated.

MickeyMartin said...

if I were thinking about having sex with a 17 year old who was turning 18 the next day (which I never would be), I would wait. Even at a college, a teacher/student relationship is not okay. It compromises the integrity of the learning environment. Love happens, I suppose, but it is a conflict in any sense as students are vulnerable to their teachers as their grade depends upon it. If there is no limitations, would you think a very mature 14 year old was okay to sleep with on a "case-by-case" basis? This is deviant behavior anyway one squares it.

Anonymous said...

The definition of consensual means by mutual consent. If the law specifies that you have to be 18 to consent then any by definition there was no mutual consent.

I understand you problem with the hard age barrier but you have this in many other circumstances as well. Look at voting age, drinking age etc. There is nothing magical on the day the law specifies that you’re old enough to vote or to drink or entering into a contract and so on.

Anonymous said...

I am a student at Miramonte. Though I did not have Mr. Litton as a teacher, I feel for his students, family, and faculty companions. No one truly knows what happened other than Mr. Litton and the individual. I agree that "consensual" means to have mutual consent. When I was 14 and entering high school, it had been embedded in my brain, that having sex with a teacher was wrong. At a high school, we are dealing with an age group ranging from 14-18 years old. Yes there are students more mature than others on sex, but everyone knows that there are boundaries that should not be crossed. BOTH the teacher and student know that. If it was consensual, and they both knew the risks and legal issues entering into the situation, then they BOTH should be held responsible. We must remember that a man's career has been put at risk, and life has been tossed up. If he is proven innocent... what then? I do not believe that he should be the one to soley bear the burdens and consequences. If it was consensual, minor or not, she should be held responsible for saying yes. She has control over her body just like Mr. Litton.

Anonymous said...

People need to stop fanning the flames. If something happened, it will come out in time. Otherwise, the more and longer it's talked about, the harder it will be for the effected parties to rebuild their lives after this dies down.

Plenty of other stuff to get upset about in the meantime.

MickeyMartin said...

I disagree. As an adult you enter a different role of responsibility and need to make less rash decisions in your daily life than a 17 year old. As a teen develops there are a lot of curiosity, emotions, and lack of experience that will ensure a teen makes some bad decisions in those formative years. An adult, especially a 33 year old teacher, can not allow his impulsive behavior to overcome him and disregard the norms of the society we live in. It is unethical and immoral, period. The 17-year-old is searching for themselves and are bound to make unwise choices. The more responsible adult needs to be the one to deter these behaviors, not enable them.

Anonymous said...

re: mickeymartin

you really honestly think there is that much of a change that takes place in that one year between 17 and 18 years old?

you also said "if I were thinking about having sex with a 17 year old who was turning 18 the next day (which I never would be), I would wait. "
do you say this because of the legal ramifications for having sex with someone who is almost 18, or do you actually think that one day will change a person from someone who is mentally unable to consent to a healthy sexual relationship to someone who is able to consent?


"If there is no limitations, would you think a very mature 14 year old was okay to sleep with on a "case-by-case" basis?"
i really really doubt i would ever come across such a person, but some 14 year old are well into puberty. some 14 year olds are able to attend college, etc.
the point is we should ignore age altogether. it's not about how long someone has been alive, but how developed they are emotionally and mentally. can a 14 year old be that developed? i doubt it, but i would judge them on their emotional and mental development, not on their age.

MickeyMartin said...

How is one to judge a if a person is ready to have sex with a 33 year old? We are not talking about whether the time between 17 or 18 makes a difference in development for a child, but rather when is a 33-year-old capable of having sex with a teenager? Although 18 may be an arbitrary number, there has to be a line drawn somewhere. I think a 33-year-old who has sex with an 18-year-old has issues as well, but that is just me. The idea of an immature lover is just way too much for me to deal with. Yikes. I still believe at some point there has to be responsibility taken by an adult who should know better.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I have a female child at Miramonte. While I do not condone teachers having relationships with students, it is not necessary, as another anonymous said to "smear" the teacher's name in front of his students by arresting him at class(if this is indeed the case). Having a daughter, I can feel free to give some of her opinions about alot of the girls(NOT ALL, but enough girls to warrant an opinion by her). She calls some girls 'volleyball sluts' because of the way the dress(or don't dress), lots of low cut shirts, shorts so short their 'booty" (for lack of a better term) actually showing as they walk. Girls go to dances in spandex tops or lace tops as outergarments that are meant to be worn UNDER a shirt. The way enough girls at Miramonte act, in a very salacious manner, talking about blow jobs and hand jobs routinely at brunch with guys
within earshot of other kids-- well, who's exactly to say how consensual-- after all Lolita is a famous book--- just maybe that is what went on. NOT TO EXCUSE THE TEACHER, but there are always 2 sides to the story.

Anonymous said...

As a student at Miramonte, it is sick for anyone to judge Mr. Litton. Mr. Litton is great man and although he obviously made a poor choice (if this in fact happened), he does not deserve judgment from anyone. It was so typical for the pompous Orinda cops to arrest him in class. Always wanting to make a big deal out of everything.

Please don't judge Mr. Litton because he would never judge anyone
himself. His life is now ruined for something I am sure he meant no harm. I wish him safety and comfort right now.

It was also a very poor choice on the part of the student, who should still be accountable, while not as much as Litton, for his or her actions. The girls here are almost of age, and are not all out "finding themselves" and therefore immune from responsibility.

If I did something like this, I would know the consequences. And I would want to be at least 90% as accountable as Litton. I believe in responsibility and that people my age KNOW what they are doing. We've all self-actualized and whatever, and we're seriously just as responsible as Litton, though maybe not as much.

It's really no big deal Litton did this, but because everyone else has made it so, I must say that Litton is a great man and should not be judged and the student should be held responsible too.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anonymous at 1:46 PM 9/11/09, yes there are 2 parts of the story and i agree with you on that, but your words were very offensive to the girls at Miramonte.
You can't judge a girl by what they wear. There's not that much wrong with wearing tight shirts, spandex to dances, or lacy undershirts as shirts. Judge someone by their actions. It was extremely judgmental to make those remarks about the Miramonte girls.
And also, I wouldn't speak for your daughter, if my mother did that I would be deeply offended.
Not targeting you, but a LOT of the parents here make way too big of a deal out of everything and are extremely critical of the girls here. Ever remember what it was like to be a kid? A child learns from being able to think and learn from themselves, not their parents.

Anonymous said...

He certainly wasn't arrested during 5th period, considering he was still there to teach it.

Anonymous said...

In response to anonymous who posted a comment at 5:42-- first of all, not all girls at Miramonte exhibit this behavior. If you read CAREFULLY what I said, I talked not only about clothing choices, but casual conversation about blowjobs and hand jobs. Secondly, your own community of peers, ran a story in the Matador about how the girls SHOULD NOT be wearing spandex tops and the other risque clothing they do to the dances. Unfortunately, the girls that dress AND talk this way, will not be offended by this, because it's true and 'no big deal'. in their mind.
When I speak for my daughter, I "hear" constant stories from her, her friends and even some of the guys about sleazy behavior. I don't know the details, but hey wake up-- "First impressions are lasting impressions"....
By the way, I wish that the girls were wearing lacy undershirts--- we're talking bras, not shirts of any sort.
Yes, I remember very vividly what it was like to be a kid and teen and I would not even have DARED to act and dress the way, too many(NOT ALL) of the girls dress at Miramonte.
I'll never forget my daughter's first day at school-- a girl in short, shorts and knee boots with something akin to a baton showing up at school. I got the call from her ride, "are you sure you want me to leave your daughter at school"... ridiculous dress!
But the main point is that Mr. Litton AND whoemver the girl, should both be accountable.

Anonymous said...

"You can't judge a girl by what they wear. There's not that much wrong with wearing tight shirts, spandex to dances, or lacy undershirts as shirts. Judge someone by their actions."

Can you judge someone for the action of dressing inappropriately?

Anonymous said...

With respect to Mr. Litton being arrested during 5th period: the police reported arresting him at 1 pm. Fifth period ends at 1:15, so yes in deed, Mr. Litton was still with his 5th period class.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Litton was arrested by the Walnut Creek police at 1:30. He did not have a class at the time. The police used an unmarked car.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, so the newspaper reports of him being arrested at 1 are incorrect. At least, he wasn't yanked away in front of his class and thankfully, they used an unmarked car...to lessen some of the drama!

Anonymous said...

To the mother judging all these females at Miramonte: You need to get over the fact that today’s world is not as socially conservative as it was when you went to high school back when who knows when. Did it ever occur to you that athletes, like these volley ball students wear spandex for their sport? And you are talking just as crudely as the behavior you speak of. If you would like to improve Miramonte’s atmosphere, maybe you should also worry about the adult figures at school having sexual relationships with the students. This guy is supposed to be an educational figure to minors. His job is to help people prepare for the future. There is not excuse for a 33 year old having sex with a 17 year old. Especially one with a family. Yes, no 17 year old in their right mind would do something so foolish. but lets get over it, not all 17 year old girls can make decisions for themselves!

Anonymous said...

Law enforcement can handle these cases terribly. Just look at the case of Julie Amero. Police and the District Attorney ruined this teacher career, finances and life. It took her many years and appeals for her to prove she was innocent, but she had to plead guilty to a crime and give up her teaching credential to have the DA stop prosecuting her. I hope this isn’t a similar witch hunt against this teacher. Not the first time Orinda/Walnut Creek PD arrested a Miramonte teacher who later was found to innocent.

Anonymous said...

uhhhh when was the first time?

Anonymous said...

they didn't arrest him during 5th period - it was after class

Anonymous said...

First of all, I am (or I guess, was) one of Mr. Litton's students. In fact, I am in his 5th period AP English class. And yes, on the day that he was arrested we were in class until 1:15 and I'm pretty sure I would've noticed if he had been dragged out in the middle of his lecture on No Exit. Also, on my way out of school (at around 1:25) I didn't see anything out of the ordinary either so I assume that they took him away discreetly.
To the supposed "mom" of a Miramonte student, I think that the statements you are making about myself and my peers are absolutely outrageous. Just because you grew up in an old-fashioned, conservative world doesn't mean that it is still that way today. I'm not defending the fact that some girls' clothes are sometimes inappropriate, but it is just the way that our society is today. Also, this allegation that blow jobs and hand jobs are discussed casually at school is completely false. Of course teenagers discuss these things! But generally it is in a private environment, and not meant for anyone but your close friends to hear. Never have I ever overheard someone saying anything particularly vulgar out on the quad at lunch. I sincerely hope that you were lying when you said that you were a Miramonte mom, because the casual manner in which you discuss these things disgusts me. Also, I sincerely hope that your identity remains anonymous because it would undoubtedly humiliate your daughter to no end if it ever got out that you were making these ludicrous (and, frankly, nasty) remarks on the internet.

To everyone else that is sitting behind their computers, far away from Orinda and hidden behind their anonymity, you have no idea what really happened here. None of us do yet. Mr. Litton was the best teacher I've ever had, and I learned more from him in two weeks than the rest of my time at Miramonte combined. Although I don't want to believe that this is true, unfortunately these things sometimes do happen. But that gives you no excuse to judge him and make slanderous comments for all the world to see. He was a great teacher and a great person that may have made a big mistake, but that doesn't make him a bad person.

Anonymous said...

Dear Soccer Mom,
I am another one of Mr. Litton's AP English students that is in his 5th period class. Your allegation that our reading of the play No Exit was in some way prophetic is absolutely ridiculous. First of all, the play is not about a man led to a room that may be his hell. It is about three people (a man and two women) who are all sent to hell for various reasons and have to live with their punishment. The point of the play is that "Hell is other people," it really has nothing to do with what the various individuals did to deserve an eternity in hell. So please stop making absurd connections between our reading material and Mr. Litton's current circumstances.

Soccer Mom said...

Dear Students of Mr. Litton,
Thank you very much for posting and clarifying some things about him, your experience with him as a teacher, and my lame attempt at a comparison with No Exit. Oh, and thanks for clarifying the plot of the play.

In making that reference, I was in no way trying to be snide. Really, I wasn't. To me, Litton is innocent until proven otherwise. I don't know much about the situation he was supposedly involved in that got him arrested. If he's being falsely prosecuted or overcharged, that is a tragedy. Last I checked he was in jail, so that must be a kind of hell for him.

I've also written other stories and comments, pointing out that relationships between students and teachers have happened in this area, according to my memory. Maybe it's not appropriate, but is it illegal? Should it be?

I guess it depends on all the circumstances in this case.

It's too bad. He sounds like he was a very talented teacher and made a big difference to a lot of students. That kind of teacher is valuable. I had a few of them myself.

Anonymous said...

I had Mr. Litton just last year, and I am horrified to see what people are writing about him. Yes there were rumors or his having a relationship with another student at school, and that is probably why they arrested him, but they are just horrific rumors. The people spreading them did not know the truth, the student involved changed every day. I really do not think they arrested him for any solid evidence. Not only that but Mr. Litton loved his wife and his kids. He would not do something like that to hurt them

Anonymous said...

Mr. Litton was the bright light of my son's one-year career at Miramonte - in fact he said Mr. Litton was the best teacher he's ever had. My daughter had him too and like him.

During the three years my daughter was at Miramonte, boundaries were pretty lax between teachers and students. Here are three things that were going on with three of her male teachers: 1) a girl student gave Mr. X neck rubs during class; 2) the "popular girl" was wearing Mr. W's jacket because it was cold; 3) Mr. Z was required to take a leave of absence because of a too-familiar e-mail correspondence with a girl students. My daughter liked all three of those teachers but I think their behavior made her feel bad. She said Mr. Litton wasn't like those teachers at all. In other words she thought he was very professional.

I think Miramonte and all high schools need very heavy duty training about sexual boundaries - we get that kind of training in the corporate world. And most of us don't even deal with teenagers. It is a very serious issue - if boundaries are crossed it is devastating.

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