SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The number of teachers charged with sex crimes against students continues to rise.
Several sources are reporting substantial increases in the number of teachers arrested for inappropriate sexual relationships with students, including DriveWest Communications CEO Terry Abbott, whose firm has tracked news stories about such cases in recent years, Chicoer.com reports.
In California, for example, DriveWest tracked a total of 43 cases. Nationwide, there were 781, Abbott told the news site.
“That’s more than 15 every week, that obviously tells us that we have a very serious issue and it’s just continuing to get worse,” said Abbott, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education.
Abbott elaborated in a column for the Washington Post.
“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 179.
“Kentucky schools reported more than 45 sexual relationships between teachers and students in 2011, 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 2013, nearly triple the number it had investigated just four years earlier,” Abbott wrote.
It seems to be the same situation in California, where the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing opened 328 investigations into teachers for sex crimes against children last year. That figure is more than double the number of investigations in the 2008-09 school year, Chicoer.com reports.
“There are always too many, even if you have one,” Victor Rodriguez, head of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Division, told the news site. “When you’re a parent, you put your trust in these people. The kids look up to these teachers, they respect them. This person in turn takes advantage of that trust to commit these crimes.”
Rodriguez is one who believes the apparent rise in teachers sexually abusing students could be tied to media coverage of high-profile cases and a shift in the public’s attitude about the inappropriate relationships.
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“At least one Los Angeles-area case made national news already this year, when the Orange County District Attorney’s office charged two female Covina-Valley Unified teachers with the molestation of students during a cocaine-fueled beach sex party,” Chicoer.com reports.
“Increased attention could lead to more accusations, even if more crimes aren’t happening, Rodriguez said.”
Regardless, it’s clear more teachers are arrested each year for fornicating with their pupils, and Abbott thinks technology is driving the problem.
“In the late 1990s, I was press secretary for the Houston Independent School District, one of the largest districts in the country. In 2001, I served as chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Education. In those roles, I would hear about teachers who became sexually involved with students – but at that time, those cases seemed rare,” he wrote in the Post.
“Since then, two things have become popular and had a massive effect on the prevalence of sexual misconduct in schools: social media and text messaging. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist 15 years ago, and the number of teenagers with their own cell phones has ballooned.”
The ability to connect with students discreetly, without parental oversight, is often cited in news stories as a contributing factor in teacher-student sex cases, he said.
“Last year, at least 281 school employees — 36 percent of those accused or convicted of an inappropriate relationship with a student – were reported to have used social media to start or continue those relationships. I suspect the percentage actually is significantly higher, since news accounts don’t always reveal when social media was a factor in these interactions,” Abbott wrote.
DriveWest research has revealed that while men account for about two-thirds of news reports on educator sexual misconduct cases involving students, women teacher-predators were more likely to use social media to connect with their victims. About 40 percent of women offenders used the technology, while it was about 35 percent for males.
Abbott said school officials have made matters worse by tacitly endorsing the bad behavior.
“Part of the problem is that this is being, in some cases, condoned,” he told Chicoer.com.
But Ginger Clark, a University of Southern California psychologist, believes the public’s opinion on teacher-student sexual relationships is shifting.
“The fact that these are getting reported to parents and then to the police is a result of the public dialogue around it,” Clark told the news site. “Kids are now understanding that this is not okay, this is not a secret that I should keep.”
Teachers unions, meanwhile, have continued to downplay the issue.
“Week after week, the overwhelming majority of California’s teachers dedicate their lives to protecting, respecting and inspiring their students across California,” California Teachers Association spokesman Mike Msylinski said. “These very serious cases represent a fraction of the teacher workforce.”