Textbook Love Affair

A 39-year-old teacher falls in love with his 17-year-old student, and everybodys life goes a little crazy

Monday, Dec. 10, 2001, started off badly for math professor Steve Zicree. He was moving through the faculty office at Orange Coast College when, at about 9 a.m., his cell phone rang. It was Detective Vic Ray of the Irvine Police Department.

"Why's this guy Jerry Hasson bugging me all the time?" the detective asked. "What's this all about?"

Steve wasn't surprised to hear Hasson's name.

"I'm going to have to call you back after I teach this class," Steve told the detective. Phone in hand, he walked down the hall, looking for a pencil. A colleague approached.

"What the hell's going on with you?" he hissed.

Steve gestured that he was on the phone. He took down Ray's number and ended the call.

"I got this crazy e-mail this morning from this Jerry Hasson guy," the colleague told him. "He says you're fucking his 17-year-old daughter!"

Steve was shocked. He and Hasson's stepdaughter Sarah Jansen were friends, and yes, there was some romantic interest there, and yes, they'd gotten coffee a few times after the last semester ended. But, he told his colleague, they weren't sleeping together. And why had Jerry Hasson sent an e-mail about it to this guy?

"Dude, he didn't just send it to me," Steve's colleague told him. "He sent it to everybody. The president of the school got it, all the administrators—everybody. It's long, too, like 10 pages long."

"Can you forward it to me?" Zicree asked. His colleague nodded and said, "This is going to cause you some trouble."

"I know," said Steve. "I know."

That morning, Steve examined his students for signs they were looking at him strangely. Did they know? Had Jerry sent the e-mail to them, too?

When class ended, Steve raced home and turned on his computer. There it was, an e-mail that appeared to have been sent to several local newspapers and copied to dozens of college faculty, staff and administrators:

Hello. It was a pleasure speaking with you today, and I appreciate your willingness to consider this matter as a possible news item regarding the public safety of underaged children. As we discussed, this involves Steven Zicree, a professor at both Irvine Valley College and Orange Coast College, and his powerful influence over and involvement with our underaged daughter, Sarah Jansen.

The e-mail went on to detail the relationship (including e-mails between Zicree and the Hassons along with extensive outlines from both Jerry Hasson and Sallie Hasson), saying that "the most remarkable aspect in all this is that the senior administrators of IVC have, for the past two months, refused to take any action." The e-mail was 14 pages long.

Near the end, there was this: "Outline of events involving Sarah Jansen as described by Sallie Hasson (Sarah's mother)."

"I do not know a great deal about Steve," it read. "I know their [sic] were problems in his family and his mother committed suicide."

The e-mail was made to look as if Jerry had already contacted the media. This was merely "a ploy," Jerry later admitted, "to get the attention of the administration."

Steve's phone rang.

"Hi, Steve, this is Glenn Roquemore," Steve remembers the voice on the other end saying. Roquemore was vice president of instruction at Irvine Valley College. "I'm calling to let you know that we won't have a contract for you."

"But I already signed it," said Steve.

"Yes," said Roquemore, who's now the president of IVC. "It's being revoked."

"Anything more you want to say?" Steve asked.

"Not at this time, no," Roquemore said before hanging up.

In the summer of 2001, while Sallie and Jerry were in the Virgin Islands, Sarah enrolled in a precalculus class at Irvine Valley College. She was an otherwise straight-A student but had received a bad mark in math and was under the impression that a community college class might offer an easy A.

She noticed Steve Zicree right away. He had short, dark hair; a tanned, athletic build; a chiseled jaw; and a tattoo of a rosebush circling his left wrist. (One of his mother's hobbies had been tending roses.) Sarah assumed he was a student until he sat down at the desk in the front of the room.

Steve noticed Sarah Jansen right away. It was hard not to: she was the kind of kid who sat in the front row and had an answer to every question. She was a bit like Max Fisher, he thought, the overachiever from Wes Anderson's Rushmore.There was an intensity about her that he was drawn to. And he couldn't help but notice that where most of the students sat in their chairs before class playing GameBoy, Sarah always had her nose in a book, and not just pulp fiction. At the time, she was reading Atlas Shrugged.

As the class wore on, it became clear the two had some common interests. They both played guitar, they both played chess, they both drank coffee, they both knitted. These came to light when Steve would mention one of his hobbies in terms of a math problem—guitar, for example, was used to illustrate simple harmonic oscillations—and Sarah would shoot her hand up in the air and comment on it.

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