Tuesday, September 22, 2020
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Student sues school for alleged relationship with teacher

A math teacher at Belleville West High School was indicted in March for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a student under 17, the Belleville News-Democrat reports. Now, the student is suing the school district, charging school officials with failure to monitor email traffic and meetings between the accused and students that indicated a propensity to engage in inappropriate relationships.

The math teacher, Ryan D. Endsley, no longer works in the school district and was scheduled for a plea hearing this morning.

District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier said he couldn’t comment specifically about this case, but he confirmed for the News-Democrat that the district has policies in place against inappropriate communication between teachers and students. “On a professional level, it’s appropriate for teachers and students to communicate. The problem isn’t communication. It’s when communication becomes inappropriate,” the paper quoted him as saying.

“Things are changing so quickly in the world of technology that it is difficult to keep up,” Dosier said. “We’re working with our attorney to develop a comprehensive policy that will be revisited frequently to deal with the advances and changes of technology.”

Facebook, smartphones, and devices aren’t themselves the problem

With technology becoming more common in society, it must be expected that technology will become more widespread among teachers and students. Schools are starting to catch up with changing trends, and researchers are also asking important questions when it comes to what students find “appropriate” when it comes to technology use.

One study, published three years ago, takes a look at some of the types of communication found appropriate and inappropriate by students, although the use of social networks and electronic communication by predators was not specifically examined.

Another study, based on a case study from a Vermont sixth-grade teacher and published in Education Week, here, considered possible solutions. The abstract is reprinted here:

This article reports on how the current must-have tools of adolescent social networks–cell phone text messaging, Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook, and e-mail–are being used by teachers and other school employees who prey on students to foster inappropriate relationships and perpetrate abuse. When the sexual abuse of students by educators involves digital technology, the harm can be heightened in ways that make an already damaging betrayal of trust even more devastating. Abusers can use the Internet, e-mail, or text messaging, for example, to constantly pursue students, in and out of school. In some extreme cases, they may use the Web in a way that magnifies the abuse exponentially, as a 6th grade teacher in Vermont did recently when he was charged with using his students as models for his homemade child pornography. At the same time, the electronic trail left by such communications can present evidence for authorities investigating allegations of educator misconduct. For some officials, that trail has become an invaluable tool in rooting out bad actors even when they don’t have a cooperating victim.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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