WSFA 12 special report: Student-teacher relationships - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

WSFA 12 special report: Student-teacher relationships

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Approximately 431 teachers were arrested in the southeast from 2007 to 2011 for sexual misconduct according to a study in the "Journal of Childhood Sexual Abuse".

WEB EXTRA: "Journal of Childhood Sexual Abuse".

Here in Alabama, nearly 70 teachers have been accused of inappropriate actions with a student in the last two years with more than half of those in the last ten months.

Last month, a Selma teacher, LaTangela Wiliams, pleaded guilty to having sex with students. Anthony Ray Staten Jr., a substitute teacher at Alabama Christian Academy, was charged with having sexual contact with a student. Then a Southlawn Middle School teacher was charged with indecent exposure.

The most recent case came Friday when police charged a north Alabama soccer coach, David Jacobs Barrow, with sexual abuse and Human Trafficking.

Cases like this continue to pile up.

Elmore County Superintendent Dr. Jeff Langham fired former Stanhope Elmore teacher Jeffrey Stanton.

"It's unbelievable that we would have to articulate these things 'do not do this!" Langham said.

Stanton was indicted on May 6 on charges of having sexual intercourse with a 17-year-old student.

Dr. Langham says the school system offers professional training for teachers to avoid this kind of behavior.

But why is it still happening?

"I'm not sure if it's more frequent or we are getting better reporting," said Susan Crowther.

"These cases are occupying our attention," said James Ward.

Department of Education attorneys, Susan Crowther and James Ward, partly blame social media and smart phones for the ongoing problem of teachers developing these types of relationships with students.

"There are some psychologists who say it creates a false sense that they are peers," Crowther said.

Crowther adds that social media has played a big role in catching teachers.

"A police officer had taken a student in custody and was looking at his phone because he had been arrested for shoplifting. He was looking at text messages going back and forth and it turned out it was the teacher. They were getting ready to go out on a camping trip, just the two of them."

Child Protect Director, Jannah Bailey, says she has seen more cases of teacher-student relationships this year than her entire 13 years with Child Protect.

"It's never appropriate for a teacher to text or Facebook a student," Bailey said.

She cautions parents that there are warning signs that could point to an inappropriate relationship. These include a drop in grades, an increase in time on the computer or cell phone, and changes in behavior such as being withdrawn, acting out or a change in eating habits. She says parents need to access to your child's texts, social media and email accounts.

"If you pay for it, you have every right to see what's on it," Bailey said.

She urges that if you suspect it, report it!

"Be the eyes and ears of our children," Bailey said.

Educators are required by law to report questionable behavior, or they could be arrested also.

"Do not hold back, or it could put your career in jeopardy," Langham said.

New laws are on the books to help prosecute teachers.

Previously, a teacher could have sex with an 18-year-old student without facing serious criminal consequences. Now, the law now states that sex with a student under the age of 19 is a felony.

There's also a law that allows the state to automatically revoke a teacher's license if he or she is convicted.

A conviction would also place that teacher person on the predator list.

That, along with other community notification tools, helps keep teachers from moving from system to system or state to state.

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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