DALLAS – Texas is a hotbed for inappropriate sexual activities between teachers and students.

protectourchildrensignThat revelation is starting to become more apparent in the Lone Star State as a slew of educator sexual misconduct cases find their way into the news.

Luke Darby, blogging for the Dallas Observer, pointed to four high-profile cases in as many months of teachers sleeping with high school students, and suggests Texas may be leading the nation in the number of such cases.

Darby cites Terry Abbott, the former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education for President George W. Bush, who told a local television station he’s been tracking media reports and has come across 26 cases of teacher-student sexual abuse in Texas so far this year.

“That tells us that we have an epidemic, and we’ve got to deal with it aggressively,” Abbott told WFAA.

Abbott believes social media and instant communications are feeding the problem.

“Stop teachers from texting with kids, and stop teachers from interacting with kids on Facebook, because that leads to serious problems,” he said.

Social media and other electronic communications, however, are only one aspect of a multifaceted problem that currently impacts nearly every school district in the country, as EAGnews documented in a four-part series this week called “Sextracurricular Activities.”

Experts told EAGnews that educating parents and school staff about the signs of sexual abuse, better employment screening, and tougher penalties for offenders and those who aid them are all elements that could help curb what appears to be a growing problem.

“According to the Texas Education Agency, the number of reported cases in the last few years has vacillated between about 150 and 200. So far this school year, starting back in September, the TEA has sanctioned 74 teachers for ‘Sexual Misconduct’ or ‘Inappropriate Relationship with Student or Minor,’” the Dallas Observer reports.

“In 2011-12 the total was 174, 196 in 2010-2011, and 156 in 2009-10.”

TEA officials told the Observer that a growing number of cases involve social media or electronic communications.

Texas state officials in 2010 defined and banned “inappropriate communications” between students and teachers online, and other states and local districts across the country have, as well.

The best available data shows as many as 3.5 million students in the United States have suffered actual physical sexual abuse from an educator during their K-12 schooling. That study was conducted in 2000, before the widespread use of texting and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

We have little doubt electronic communications are making the problem worse.

But parents, teachers and school officials should be sure to recognize the numerous other aspects – from secret deals between union and school officials that allow pervert teachers off the hood, to weak background checks – that are contributing to the problem, and find ways to address them.

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