Is social media to blame for the increased number of inappropriate relationships between educators and students reported across the state?
According to the Texas Education Agency, it is. That's why they say they want more community involvement when it comes to protecting our kids. As part of Texas Safe Schools Week, the TEA is advising everyone in education to step up and play a more critical role in reporting improper educator, student relationships. They're reporting a steady increase in the number of open investigations. From 141 in 2009 to 2010, 163 in 2012 to 2013. TEA spokesman Gene Acuna that increase is for two reasons, better reporting and social media making those interactions easier.
"Social media current communication technology does play a role. There was a point and time in not to distant past where the only contact you had with a student was during the school day," said Acuna.
In fact, the Texas Educators' Code of Ethics provides rules for standard practices and ethical conduct toward students, professional colleagues, school officials, parents, and members of the community. The Code specifically calls on teachers to refrain from inappropriately communicating with students through the use of social media. Over recent years, electronic communication, such as cell phone, text messaging, email, instant messaging, blogging, or other social network communication has provided a private method to contact students during and after school hours.
While Acuna does say social media plays an important role in school work, it's the parents role to monitor.
"Parents play a role first of all in monitoring who's communicating to their son or daughter on any given day or evening."
In fact, many school district's including Canyon and Amarillo Independent School District have adopted their own social media policies that protect students and teachers. There are also strict guidelines followed in reporting inappropriate behavior, first at school level then law enforcement is called in.
"An officer would take that initial report and give it to our Crimes Against a Person Squad and they would investigate that. Talk to anybody and everybody just like any other criminal offense and gather their statements and then we take that case to the District Attorney's office," said Amarillo Police Departments, Corporal Jerry Neufeld.
"We absolutely have the authority to sanctions those individuals. Anything from flagging their certification to revoking their certification and that's as a safe guard. Not just for students in that district, but for students in other districts," said Acuna.
Acuna also advises parents that if they have a concern, it's important to approach the school's administration about it.