18 November 2002 | petershelleyau
Sarah's education has just begun
Patty Duke is the title character, an English school teacher at Benjamin Harrison High School who is raped in her classroom. The principal Walter Keys (Ned Beatty) tries to dissuade Sarah from reporting the rape to the police, to also conceal other violence that is occuring in the school. But Sarah thinks otherwise.
Duke looks chubby here, and her spectacles give way to contact lenses just before her attack, so that one lens can infect her right eye and disfigure her for the remainder of the film. Her spinsterish schoolmarm prefigures Duke's transition into character parts, however she is funny in the way she uses her still working eyes when she tells her students how her boyfriend Eddie (James Sloyan) is not dull `believe me'.
The teleplay by Lois and Arnold Peyser, based on a story by the Peysers and Joan Marks, uses this school's incidents as a jumping off point for the trend of teachers being harmed in public schools and school beatings, undermined by Keys' fearful realism that security measures deprive the academic program of funding. The high school's established emergency alarms that Sarah is shown when she joins the staff are a surprise to her, an indication of prior problems, though we see how easily they are taken for granted when Sarah isn't rescued during her attack. The Peysers have one non-school laugh line - when Sarah is seen jogging she is told `One day they're gonna find out jogging is bad for you', to which she replies `First they gotta find out it's bad for mice'. The narrative slows down once Sarah's gift for teaching is established, as if the thing we wait for is her attack, and and there is a similar pauses while Sarah recuperates. There are flashbacks to the rape when she returns to the same room, an indication that the trauma will affect her future, though Sarah's decision seems to be made prematurely.
Director John Llewellyn Moxey supplies some swift edits to jump start the narrative now and again, and Sloyan gives a good yell in response to news of the rape. The denouement is interesting for it's personal small triumph as opposed to a world scale which is generally the case in this kind of material made for television in the decade later.