Clear boundaries between students and teachers: How instant communication plays a role in victimization

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August 10, 2015 by HCDE-Texas

Clear boundaries between students and teachers: How instant communication plays a role in victimizationThe public continues to be outraged by the number of cases of students being sexually victimized by teachers and other school employees. Last year in Texas, 116 cases of inappropriate relationships were reported, and investigations grew by 27 percent in the past three years.

Recently Terry Abbott, owner of Drive West Public Relations, presented at HCDE at a meeting held by area school public relations leaders. He has experienced these victimizations firsthand as former Houston Independent School District’s press secretary.

As cases continue to rise throughout the last three years, a bulk of those are attached to social media and easy access to personal cell phones. A teacher and student begin texting. They communicate through Facebook. Videos even document some of the relationships. Abbott’s firm has tracked these statistics throughout the nation for years through media reports.

He points to the misuse and abuse of social media and personal cell phones as tools which give predators easy access to students. Abbott, who is also a concerned parent as father to a teenage boy, calls the problem “epidemic.”

Abbott has these recommendations for schools as prevention tools:
• Adopt and enforce stricter polices regarding social media interaction between
students and teachers.
• Aggressively investigate cases as a means to take care of students.
• Publicly denounce the crimes and never cover them up.
• Have strong social media and texting policies. Disallow social media interaction between students and teachers.
• Meet with staff and speak bluntly about the issues and the problems.

Where social media conversations are allowed, any messaging should be sent to both student and parent, Abbott says. In an age where “instant communication” is available to our students 24/7, where do you think the boundaries should lie?

About the Blogger:
Harris County Department of Education’s Communication team helps promote the efforts of HCDE’s programs and services to the education community. Our close-knit, award-winning team works together on creative strategies to effectively support the organization. We’re always looking to share great stories and on occasion contribute to the HCDE blog, School Bell.

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2 thoughts on “Clear boundaries between students and teachers: How instant communication plays a role in victimization

  1. Jessie Minter says:

    That is an outstanding, important report. As I have given out my personal phone publicly, students frequently text me. I will change that policy this year to parents only. I want to be accessible but not high risk. Thank you!

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