Social workers blame social media on rise in inappropriate teacher-student relationships
SAN ANTONIO - Reports of Texas teachers having inappropriate relationships with students are on pace to beat last year's record total. Social workers said many of those relationships brew through social media.
"As a teacher, we're their teacher, but we're also their counselor and so I think teachers need to be very careful to keep things professional and not cross that line," Tanisha Smith said.
Smith is the theatre and choir teacher at San Antonio Christian School.
"They're constantly wanting to follow me on Instagram. I get Facebook friend request all the time," she said.
Smith's personal policy is to not accept her students on social media, so she uses an app called "Remind" to send group messages to students in her before school and after school programs.
"It's an open group where as long as they have the information to log into it, the parents can join the group too," Smith explained.
"There are ways that teachers can communicate with students and keep that relationship strictly professional," Stephanie Jacksis, with the Association of Texas Professional Educators, said.
Jacksis recommended teachers never accept students on their personal accounts, but create separate, professional Facebook pages to community with students about educational matters.
"A good way to use this is to put homework assignments on there, put upcoming projects on there, put test dates and make these accounts available and known to the parents," she said.
The ATPE also suggested teachers check with their school districts to see what type of policies are in place when it comes to social media.
The Texas Education Agency said it launched 162 investigations of reported inappropriate teacher-student relationships between September 1 and May 31.