More teachers caught having sex with students

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- You may have seen our report on Eyewitness News on ABC13.com looking at local cases involving teachers having sex with students.

You may have surprised at some of our findings, which we uncovered after examining nearly 50 cases of teacher sex going back five years.

But you probably were not surprised that there are so many of these cases. Or that the number of teachers getting caught grows each year.

Experts say it has everything to do with the proliferation of students having smart phones.

Terry Abbott, a former HISD administrator, is monitoring teacher sex cases and training teachers on the topic. He says it's key to monitor your child's phone and texting history.

"Texting is most often used," Abbott said. "Texting is the number one thing. Look for texts with fake names, or names written not to be recognized."

In one case we looked at, a mother looked at the phone of her 16-year-old daughter. Investigators said it was that phone, with 900 texts and calls between the girl and a teacher over nine days, that helped lead to sex charges against the male teacher.

Harris County Assistant District Attorney Katie Warren, who prosecutes these kinds of cases, said she sees it all the time: Kids communicating with other kids -- or teachers -- under the parental radar using chat apps on their phones.

"More and more parents these days are wanting their teenagers to have cellphones and having cellphones kind of enables them a way to blur the line a bit and reach out using apps that parents aren't familiar with," Warren said.

Do you know about the Yik-Yak app? Or Pook? Or Whisper? What about Down, which used to be called "Bang with Friends?"

These are all apps used to communicate secretly and it's difficult for parents to keep up.

The experts we spoke with have some recommendations to help both parents and educators prevent the kind of communication that can lead to students and teachers having inappropriate relationships.

They pointed to the the Children's Assessment Center, which provides training to teachers and schools on child abuse.

They have a sample "Code of Conduct," with things that teachers have to sign off on, like "Staff will not have private interactions through social media, computer or hand-held devices with any children." Officials say that any kind of electronic communication should take place between teacher and student only if the parent is in on the conversation, too.

The code of conduct also has other reasonable rules, such as forbidding teachers to be alone with students outside of school programs and that staff are are not to transport children in their own vehicles.

The code of conduct is linked to here.

What is your school doing to prevent these sorts of incidents? And what advice do you have as parents?

We'd like to hear about it. And we'd also like to know if there is anything going on at your child's school that deserves a closer look. Here's my Twitter handle and you chat with me here on Facebook. You can also email us using the online tip line to the right of the video.
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