LAS VEGAS — Tanikka Queen was one of about 4,000 substitute teachers who work in the Clark County School District, that is, until she was arrested in March and charged with having a sexual relationship with a student.
Although Queen, 22, has always been an honor student and go-getter, her parents admit she has led a sheltered life and never matured emotionally.
“I had applied to become a substitute teacher when I was 20 years old. I felt like I was too young so I kind of scaled it back, but I could have done it because I had all the credits,” Queen said.
Her plan in college was to become a journalist, but she signed up to be a substitute teacher and was assigned to a local high school.
The same baby-faced look that later appeared in her mug shot was like catnip to teenage Romeos who flirted so much she decided it was a bad idea for her to teach at the high school level. She said she got little or no guidance about how to interact with students.
“You get all this schooling and then they throw you in there and you are left all on your own to figure it out,” Queen said.
While assigned to Hyde Park Middle School, she struck up a friendship with a troubled 15-year-old who was trying for a third time to pass the 8th grade. She agreed to tutor him.
“He just needed someone to help him. He doesn’t want to be in the 8th grade and be 16. He doesn’t want to graduate from high school at 20. So she just helped him,” said Nancy Queen, Tanikka Queen’s mother.
But it quickly blossomed into something else. Text messages show it was a full-on romance. The police report indicates it culminated when the student made a sexual advance and Queen didn’t stop it.
Legally, the student is the victim in this case, but the texts reveal him to be a smooth operator. According to Queen’s attorney, the boy has been known to drive a car to school.
“He appears to be sophisticated, 15 going on 30 as opposed to 22 going on 15,” said John Momot, Queen’s attorney.
Ex-sub teacher faces prison time for relationship with student
In hindsight, Queen’s parents now realize how emotionally unsophisticated their daughter still is. She blazed through school at 100 miles-per-hour, but never grew up. She still lives at home.
“So to a certain extent, did we shelter her a bit? Yeah,” said Carless Queen, her father.
Her parents add, Tanikka never even had a serious boyfriend.
Improbable as it seems, the text messages indicate she was in love with the student.
Nevada schools have seen many other cases of teachers having sex with students, and there are hundreds across the country. One week before Queen was arrested, local teacher Amanda Brennan was sentenced to probation for her relationship with a 15-year-old.
“Typically, these type of situations are more about the ego and the psychology than it is about the actual sex act,” said Donna Wilburn, a psychotherapist.
Wilburn has not spoken to Queen and would not presume to know what makes her tick, but from studying other cases involving female teachers, she says there are common threads.
“They have difficulty forming relationships, getting out in the dating scene, socializing with people their age.,” she said. “It’s not that they go into it wanting to exploit. They actually go into situations to feel happy, to feel loved.”
“Judgement day is coming, so until that day, and maybe for months after that, I have to be positive as I can because I don’t know what the future holds. Only the judge can tell me where that future is gonna head, and when I think about that, it gets to me and then I want to be alone and by myself and hear that cell door click.” Queen said. “I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I know I made a mistake.”
“She’s devastated her parents, as far as she’s concerned, committed a mortal sin, and she regrets everything that’s occurred here. What she’s trying to overcome, trying to get her life back together again. She just completed her education, went out into the job market for one year and she finds herself out of the job market, marked for life, facing two felonies, can’t go forward with her future. She lost it all in one shot,” Momot said.
Queen is scheduled to be sentenced in September. She faces up to 21 years in prison but could also qualify for probation, depending on the results of a psychological evaluation that began Thursday.
Her parents and attorney say they hope she gets counseling rather than prison time but Queen told us she is ready for whatever happens and knows that what she did was wrong