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Dirty Secrets' Case Files: Emily Slee and Robin Behling

Sunday, October 31, 1999

By Jane Elizabeth Zemel, Post-Gazette Education Writer

Emily Slee

Emily Slee was a quiet, serious Unionville (Chester County, Pa.) High School senior, intent on a career in sports medicine.

That's why she volunteered for the job as head trainer for the boys' basketball team.

That's how she lost control of her life.

It began one day in 1994 when Roger Heller, the boys' basketball coach and "everybody's favorite" social studies teacher, was talking with Emily alone after class. Emily chatted, gesturing with her hands in the air.

The conversation stopped when Heller suddenly took her finger in his mouth.

"Why did you do that?" she asked, pulling her hand away.

"I don't know," said Heller.

That began Heller's pursuit of Emily. She said he made suggestive comments, touched her breasts and buttocks, pushed his groin against her. Emily, who'd never had a boyfriend, was intimidated and confused. She didn't tell anyone.

"I wanted to believe that this was not happening; it was a misstep on his part. I disassociated completely."

One afternoon, Slee said, Heller attacked her when they were alone in the school's locker room.

Under the pretense of showing her a magazine, "he reached over me from behind. He inserted his finger into my vagina, through my leggings."

The 6-foot-1 teacher then held the 5-foot-2 student between his knees. She escaped, ran from the building, and managed to avoid him for several months until her graduation.

But after a bout of depression in college, Emily Slee finally reported the teacher to the police.

In a plea bargain last year, Heller, now 51, was found guilty of corruption of a minor, was sentenced to four years of probation, and fined $1,000. His teaching certificate was revoked in March.

In sworn statements, at least a half-dozen school employees said they had suspected inappropriate behavior by Heller, and had reported their suspicions to top school officials. Still, Heller, who had been a teacher for more than 20 years and led the basketball team to several league championships, was allowed to continue teaching.

Slee, now 22, has filed a civil lawsuit against the school district "in the name of every student" to prevent further abuse.

"It could be happening to someone else, right now."

Robin Behling

The teacher who abused Robin Behling when she was 12 years old was, she said, was "a classic pedophile."

She knows that now, because she works in county child protective services in New York.

In 1974, she confided in her social studies teacher about trouble she was having at home. "He looked for someone weak. He worked for a whole year to gain my trust. He assured me, we'll take care of it. He groomed me...he earned my trust."

While his wife was out of town, he invited Robin to his apartment and gave her beer and cigarettes. Soon, the relationship became sexual.

It ended one night when he tried to teach her to perform oral sex on him. "I couldn't do it; I threw up," said Behling. He became so angry that she was afraid of him and their liaisons ended. But she is certain that he pursued other young students, including a friend of hers.

Many years later, Behling heard a rumor that the teacher was going to get a job at her own children's school. She was terrified. Around the same time, she read a newspaper article about a young man who had successfully lobbied to get his former abuser's teaching license revoked.

Behling went to the New York Department of Education with her friend, who also said the teacher had abused her. Their stories persuaded state officials to revoke the teacher's license in 1994. But no criminal charges were filed because the statute of limitations had expired.

Behling said she doesn't mind discussing her experience. "I can talk about it because I'm in a much better place in my life," she said. "Victims can't or won't speak for themselves."

But she doesn't like to think of herself as a victim.

"I'm a productive member of society, I'm a good parent," said Behling, "but it will always affect me."

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