More teachers are having sex with their students. Here's how schools can stop them. Social media has provided an open gateway for classroom sexual predators.
The student indeed was contacted — not by the girl but allegedly by his year-old teacher. Within days, police said, the two were involved in a sexual relationship. In Pennsylvania, a year-old teacher approached a year-old student at a school dance and began flirting with him, police said.
The married teacher then sent the student sexual text messages and photos, along with a video of herself performing lewd acts, according to news reports. The relationship escalated, and the teacher pleaded guilty last month to institutional sexual assault. Unfortunately, these kinds of stories are becoming more common across the country. In alone, there were reported cases of teachers and other school employees accused or convicted of sexual relationships with students.
My firm, Drive West Communications, has been tracking news reports of sexual misconduct by educators for more than a year. Every week has brought news of 15 young people, on average, who were sexually victimized by the educators entrusted with protecting them.
In Texas, home to the largest number of teacher sexual misconduct cases in the country, investigations into alleged inappropriate teacher-student relationships has grown 27 percent over the past three years, to Kentucky schools reported more than 45 sexual relationships between teachers and students in , up from 25 just a year earlier.
And a surge has been reported in Alabama, where the state investigated 31 cases during the year ending July , nearly triple the number it had investigated just four years earlier. That data confirmed the disturbing shift I have witnessed while working in education. In the late s, I was press secretary for the Houston Independent School District, one of the largest districts in the country. In , I served as chief of staff at the U. In those roles, I would hear about teachers who became sexually involved with students — but at that time, those cases seemed rare.
Since then, two things have become popular and had a massive effect on the prevalence of sexual misconduct in schools: Nearly 80 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 own a cellphone, and 94 percent now have a Facebook account. Classroom sexual predators have been exploiting these new, unsupervised modes of communication to develop improper relationships with students out of sight of parents and principals. These instantaneous, omnipresent and discreet connections have created an open gateway for inappropriate behavior.
In Louisiana, a school vice principal was charged after allegedly soliciting nude pictures from a year-old student on Facebook. Authorities said a year-old Oregon teacher exchanged more than 1, text messages with a year-old student, many of them sexually explicit, before the teacher was convicted and sentenced to prison in August. A year-old Florida teacher was charged after police said she allegedly used Facebook to solicit sex from at least four students.
A Pennsylvania math teacher offered a student extra credit if she texted him nude pictures. He was sentenced to prison for up to 23 months. And a year-old counselor in Texas allegedly started talking to a 12th-grade student on Instagram and then had sex with the student, authorities reported. While male school employees were the perpetrators in two-thirds of all reported sexual misconduct cases with students in , women were more likely to use social media to lure students.
To curb these troubling incidents, schools must have targeted policies governing electronic communication. Some states and school districts already have taken strong action in this area. It also says electronic contact with students should be done only through district computers and telephones.
More states and school districts need to take similar action. While social media can be an important tool for learning, reasonable restrictions must be put in place to protect children. If a teacher or coach wants to send an electronic communication to a student, it should be copied to a parent.
Private messages with children should never be allowed. When my team speaks to educators around the country, they generally are stunned by the size and scope of this problem, and rightfully so.
Policymakers and school leaders need to get tougher on these cases. School districts should review existing employee guidelines and make sure they tightly control social media interaction between school employees and students.
America is blessed with many great educators who work hard to teach children every day. Those children include my year-old son, who attends a great public school in Texas. More from The Washington Post: